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Kenya and Finland discuss cooperation in renewable energy

Staff Writer |
Kenyan and Finnish officials on Friday held discussions on the possibility of cooperating to boost Kenya's renewable energy sector.

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Visiting Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila told a media roundtable in Nairobi that his country has expertise in executing renewable energy projects.

"We discussed with Kenya ministry of energy officials on the possibility of Finnish companies investing into the renewable sector, especially in the solar, wind and the waste-to-energy sector," Lintila said.

A Finish business delegation led by Lintila, comprising of 30 companies in the area of energy, healthcare and agriculture, is visiting Kenya.

He said Finnish companies are keen to help Kenya convert its thermal power plants that use heavy fuels to use natural gas.

As Kenya moves toward industrialization, it will require both affordable and green energy to power its industries, said Lintila, who was in the country from Thursday to Friday to promote trade and investments with Kenya.

FinnFund, a Finnish development finance company, has already invested 20 million euros (about 22.75 milion U.S. dollars) in the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, which seeks to add 310 MW of electricity to the national grid next month.

The fund has also provided finance of about 30 million euros (about 34.13 milion dollars) toward the construction of renewable power projects that will soon be commissioned.

Due to advances in technology, the cost of renewable energy is reducing and becoming more competitive than conventional sources of electricity, Lintila noted.

Africa has the potential to reach universal energy access by 2030 but will need to grow its electricity market by 8.4 percent annually, he said.

Universal access to electricity in Africa requires huge investments in new power infrastructure that will have to be built in a relatively short period of time, Lintila said.

George Oywer, development manager of Finnish energy firm Wartsila Corporation, said Kenya has a great opportunity to switch to green energy, given its low energy consumption.

Wartsila has so far installed power generators that are producing approximately 440 MW in Kenya, Oywer said.

The Finnish firm is the engineer, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for two solar power plants in Kenya, each of which are expected to supply 40 MW to the national grid.

"In the past eight years, foreign direct investment in geothermal and clean energy projects has been close to 3 billion U.S. dollars in total. This indicates that Kenya is well on its way to achieve its ambitious target of universal energy accessibility by 2030," Oywer said.

It is estimated that by 2030, annual demand for electricity in Kenya will grow to 15 GW and its installed capacity will rise to 19.2 GW.

Oywer said hydropower now accounts for 36 percent of power generation in Kenya, followed by thermal power at 31 percent, geothermal power at 28 percent, and other renewables at 5 percent.

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