A day long workshop focusing on how Kenya could exploit the abundant renewable energy resources through training and research to foster the country’s rural development opened at JKUAT, Tuesday March, 27, 2012. The workshop that brought together 50 participants from the country’s public and private sector together with researchers from JKUAT and two leading universities in Japan signals the beginning of a four year collaborative study initiated by JKUAT and JICA to carry out intensive research aimed at scaling up the utilization of renewable energy in Kenya.
An official from JICA headquarters in Tokyo told the opening session exploitation of renewable energy had the potential of accelerating Kenya’s rural development where close to 80 percent of the country’s population lived. Ms. Kyoko Kuwajima, JICA Director General for public policy and Development noted that it was only 18 percent of Kenya’s total population that had access to electricity in their homes and most of them lived in urban areas. ‘ The rest of the population without electricity constitute more than 30 million people living in the rural areas who rely primarily on kerosene for home lighting, at an estimated annual cost of over $600 million’ the JICA official said.
Ms. Kuwajima said JICA had over the decades, supported a number of energy development projects in developing countries including Kenya. She recalled the initial geothermal exploration project in the country’s Rift Valley that she said was undertaken in 1979 by JICA. ‘ In 30 years, it is encouraging to observe that geothermal power is getting increasing attention as a core source of electricity and this gives us more courage to assist Kenya to exploit other renewable energy resources’.
Speaking during the opening session, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga welcomed the project saying she was particularly pleased with its training component that she said would be crucial in the development of the much needed technical expertise that was an essential pre-condition for the long term sustainability of renewable energy use in Kenya. The vice chancellor in a speech read for her by Prof. Romanus Odhiambo, Deputy Vic-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs noted that the project fitted well in Kenya’s Vision 2030 development programme that recognized energy as a major infrastructural enabler of the Economic, Social and Democratic pillars of the blueprint. The session was also addressed by Prof. Esther Kahangi, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension.