[NAIROBI] The majority of Kenyans are unwilling to abandon their traditional energy sources in favour of cleaner or renewable ones, unless their incomes rise significantly, a study has found.
Last month (21 September) the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced US$50 million to subsidise the provision of clean, environmentally-friendly cooking stoves in developing countries to reduce deaths caused by inhaling smoke and help mitigate climate change.
But in Kenya, at least, the majority of households said that they were not willing to pay for improved energy sources because of their limited incomes, according to the report 'A Comprehensive Study and Analysis of Energy Consumption Patterns in Kenya' prepared for Kenya's Energy Regulatory Commission in July.
The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) found that just three per cent of Kenyans are using solar energy while biogas and wind energy account for 0.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent of national energy consumption. Only about 29 per cent of households are connected to the electricity grid.
Poverty and low awareness of the benefits of renewable energy are the main reasons why the country's poor keep using 'dirty' energy sources, the report said.
Kerosene, charcoal and wood remain the most popular sources of energy among poor households.
Most Kenyans also prefer to keep their options open by using different types of energy for different uses instead of switching to a single new fuel source for all their demands.
The report indicated that, with rising income, most Kenyans are likely to replace kerosene and wood with cleaner fuels such as electricity, biogas and off-grid solar. But charcoal was a notable exception — its use does not decline with rise in income.
Eric Aligula, an economist working with KIPPRA, said an increase in income is usually connected with a move to the city, which explains the decline in the use of wood fuel, an energy source found mainly in rural Kenya.
At the same time, Aligula said, most households that prefer charcoal as an energy source are likely to use it outdoors, while kerosene is mainly used inside houses.
"This could explain why [wealthier] Kenyans will stop using kerosene because it has a choking effect when used indoors," said Aligula, but they continue to use charcoal outdoors, although it is a 'dirty' fuel, because it does not affect them.