E-Mobilization and Renewable Energy in Kenya, with Daniel Ngumy

A few cars and trucks drive on a two-lane road in a desert with shrubs and rocks.

Image Caption: Kenya leads East Africa in developing renewable electrification and e-mobility, which will lead to fossil-fuel use reduction. Image credit: Photo by Artparta on Pixabay

Script & Audio by: Olivia Rounsaville  |  Blurb by: Ashley Carter

Renewables and E-mobility

E-mobility, the use of electric powertrain technologies in-vehicle transformation, allows for the use of electricity to enable the electric propulsion of various forms of transportation. Powertrain technologies refer to full electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be less carbon-intensive than conventional diesel counterparts. Such technologies provide countries an opportunity to reduce their total emissions while still meeting transportation demands. As e-mobility efforts rise, many countries are beginning to ramp up the use of renewables in the power grid as they electrify transportation. While this is particularly challenging in rural settings, there are possible solutions. 

Electrifying Kenya

Kenya provides an important example. For the past two decades, Kenya’s power sector has been growing exponentially. In 2022, over 75% of households reported increased access to the power grid—an estimated 52% increase since 2013. Although urbanized areas of Kenya have full access to the grid, most rural regions of the country are unelectrified. In order to achieve rapid electrification, the government of Kenya (GOK) has been investing in cheap renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, solar and (more controversially), natural gas. The Electricity Mobility Task Force in Kenya is the main organization working to increase the usage of e-mobility through legislation, regulations, and impact assessments to decrease reliance on pollution from fossil fuels. Currently, the extension of the national grid mainly includes off-grid solutions through mini-grids and solar home systems. As of now this is the most cost-effective solution, but further research is needed to better understand the supply and demand of electricity usage in Kenya.  The work in Kenya provides pathways for many of the rural regions of the world.  

Impacts of E-mobility

Broadly, e-mobility has the potential for countries to reduce emissions from fossil fuels and meet clean energy standards. In 2021, the transportation sector accounted for 28% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. As transportation is one of the largest contributors to global emissions, research to decarbonize this sector has mainly focused on the transition to various forms of electric transportation. Achieving decarbonization through the growth of EVs comes with various advantages including the growth of renewable energy jobs, improved reliance of electricity (particularly during extreme weather conditions), and increased energy efficiency and emissions reductions. As EVs do not rely on internal combustion engines, forms of electric transportation do not produce harmful tailpipe emissions, and, as a result, decreases air pollution. The savings in fuel and maintenance costs over the lifetime of an EV can offset the higher initial purchase  price. 

Difficulties in Clean Electrification

The provision of electricity is extremely challenging in remote settings in Kenya and well beyond. Large upfront investments are necessary in order to design interconnected electric grids to facilitate transportation between major urban centers. Oftentimes investors may shy away from such propositions, as rural areas are often met with low demand and consumption densities. Further, if we electrify too quickly without ramping up clean energy, we may run the risk of unintentionally increasing emissions. Increased demand for electricity may burn more fossil fuels in the short term. Thus, it is crucial that proper assistance for the grid is maintained to accommodate load growth and proper charging infrastructure. In order to keep pace with EV adoption, utilities need to be prepared to take on this new type of load. 

About our guest

Daniel Ngumy, leader of the Electric Mobility Task Force for the Kenyan government, is a lawyer specializing in regional and international tax law. He believes that further ramping up of e-mobility efforts in Kenya can assist in achieving clean energy standards. He holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of London and is a certified public accountant in Kenya. He has co-authored the Kenya Chapter for Chambers & Partners: Global Practice Guide (Corporate Tax) and Legal 500: Tax Country Comparative Guide. Ngumy is currently working on strategies to achieve electrification outside of major urban hubs. 



Ethan: I’m Ethan Elkind, and you’re listening to Climate Break. Climate solutions in a hurry. Today’s proposal: expanding a clean electricity grid in Kenya to boost the market for electric vehicles. We spoke to Daniel Ngumy at the UN Climate Conference in Dubai. He leads the Electric Mobility Task Force for the Kenyan government.

Mr. Ngumy: Kenya is one of the leading nations in Africa when it comes to renewable energy. What’s recently happened is that there’s a whole shift by the Kenyan government to go green in other sectors of the economy. And one of the sectors that the Kenyan government is looking at is in the area of, uh, e-mobility.

Ethan: E-mobility is an overarching term used to describe any form of electrically propelled transportation. In order to make big changes in the transportation sector, Daniel says that Kenya must first make significant upgrades to its electricity grid.

Mr. Ngumy: So, so I think one of the biggest challenges is that, you know, the electrification of the grid is still largely only in the cities. How do I get an electric vehicle from one city to another, which effectively passes through places that don’t have electricity at all to begin with? And therefore, the charging infrastructure, and how it’s set up and who it’s set up for, will be a big challenge to ensure adoption.   

Ethan: Major new grid projects will require money, and Ngumy hopes that could come from foreign investors. 

Mr. Ngumy: All this will require significant outlay of capital. How do we make Kenya conducive for investments generally? So, eliminate customs duties, excess duties, and eliminate value added tax, at least for the outset of the project.”

Ethan: To learn more about the Electric Mobility Task Force in Kenya, visit climatebreak.org.

E-Mobilization and Renewable Energy in Kenya, with Daniel Ngumy