Kenya’s public power company backing electric vehicles

By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency

Kenya’s power utility lays out plans to substantially reduce its carbon footprint by purchasing more e-vehicles, rolling out nationwide charging stations and opening up its national power channel to private sector players.

Kenya is racing ahead of many African peers as it formally begins phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles in state-owned firms.

The country’s public utility firm, Kenya Power, is leading the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) with an initial commitment of US$300,000 to start overhauling its fleet and begin the construction of electric vehicle charging stations across the country.

“As a responsible business, Kenya Power is actively promoting adoption of clean energy. We have a very critical role in supporting the e-mobility ecosystem to ensure that every electric vehicle has a place to charge,” said Kenya Power acting managing director, Geoffrey Muli.

In this financial year, the power distributor will use the funds to purchase three electric vehicles – two pickups and a four-wheel drive – to pilot the shift.

The funds will also be used to put up three charging stations in Nairobi for the company’s use and demonstration.

In the medium term, the country’s sole power distributor is looking to purchase 50 long-range electric motorbikes to initiate a planned phase-out of its diesel and petrol-powered vehicles.

Kenya Power is leveraging its national electricity distribution capacity to drive the uptake of EVs in the country, with a commitment to help plug in start-ups and companies investing in electric mobility.

“We are supporting the private sector to ensure those who want to install electric charging points are connected in a timely manner,” said Muli.

Kenya’s current installed electricity capacity stands at 3,077 MW, with only 1,100 MW in use during off-peak periods. The country’s energy mix is mostly clean energy (92%) with hydro and geothermal power, equally split, making up the bulk. Wind power made up 11% in 2020, according to a Cleantechnica report. Extra capacity can be funneled into mobility, according to officials.

“This means that Kenya has enough power to support the entire e-mobility ecosystem,” Muli affirmed.

In August, the public utility company initiated a search for e-mobility technology partners to design a charging infrastructure, billing and payment system as well as service management – indicating it is inching closer to the planned nationwide rollout of charging stations.

According to Kenya Power, approximately 1,000 electric vehicles are already on Kenyan roads. That is behind South Africa and Morocco. South Africa’s Automotive Business Council – Naamsa – shows the country’s clean energy vehicle figures rose to 2,139 by August.

Morocco sold 83,831 electric cars in the first half of 2022 but the bulk of those were for export, with electric vehicles on its roads accounting numbering 3,353, according to that country’s media.

These numbers are still low compared to a total fleet of 12 million vehicles in South Africa, 4.7 million in Morocco and some 2.2 million on Kenyan roads.

While there has been an increase in investment in e-mobility in South Africa, Kenya and Morocco over the past 12 months, overall sales are hamstrung by a lack of tax incentives or even by punishing duties.

A 2022 AutoTrader Mid-Year Car Industry Report, ranked South Africa among the countries with the most expensive EVs in the world. South Africa has an import tariff of 25% for EVs – even higher than the 18% for fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.

McKinsey, in its report, Power to move: Accelerating the electric transport transition in sub-Saharan Africa points to other hurdles standing in the way of green mobilty. “While momentum is building, sub-Saharan Africa faces some unique challenges in its electric mobility transition, including, in some cases, unreliable electricity supply, low vehicle affordability, and the dominance of used vehicles.”

However, according to the advisory firm, many countries have made significant strides in improving electricity access. South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Nigeria have urban electricity access rates above 70% and in some cases, more than 90%.

/bird story agency