Kenya to generate over half of its electricity through solar power by 2016

Government invests $1.2bn jointly with private companies to build solar power plants across the country

Kenya has identified nine sites to build solar power plants that could provide more than half the country's electricity by 2016.

Construction of the plants, expected to cost $1.2bn (£73m), is set to begin this year and initial design stages are almost complete. The partnership between government and private companies will see the state contributing about 50% of the cost.

Cliff Owiti, a senior administrator at the Kenya Renewable Energy Association, said the move will protect the environment and bring down electricity costs. "We hope that when the entire project is completed by 2016, more than 50% of Kenya's energy production will consist of solar. Already we are witnessing solar investments in Kenya such as a factory that was opened here in 2011 that manufactures solar energy panels."

He said that over $500m had already been invested in solar projects in Kenya. "The costs related with hydro electricity are very high, considering they are influenced by the low water levels in major supply dams. With high investments in solar, we will witness almost no blackouts and power charges will reduce because electricity will be in high supply."

Germano Mwabu, an economics professor at the University of Nairobi, said the solar plan could have a dramatic impact on energy prices. "When the project is complete and solar is in good use, electricity costs could go down by as much as 80%."

The country is also planning the construction of what will be sub-Saharan Africa's largest windfarm, near Lake Turkana, which is set to be operational by 2015.

Kenya ranks 22nd in Africa for the amount of electricity it generates, and 46th in the world in the generation of solar energy. But it could rank third for solar in the next four years, according to figures from the Energy Regulatory Commission, a government agency.

Gitonga Njeru

The GuardianTramp

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