Participants at the workshop. Photo: EfD Kenya.
Biomass fuels dominate the energy mix in Kenya, causing health problems and CO2 emissions. Photo: Heamna Manzur, Pixabay.
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Dirty fuel dominates the energy mix in Kenya

Kenya's energy mix encompasses biomass, oil, electricity, coal, and hydrogen, with coal and hydrogen being less prevalent. Most Kenyan citizens rely on biomass, especially firewood and charcoal, but there is evidence of a gradual decline. Oil constitutes the second most prominent energy source. The dependence on dirty fuels is the challenge addressed by the current cohort in the Inclusive Green Economy Program (IGE). 

EfD Kenya organized a workshop within the Inclusive Green Economy (IGE) program to gather stakeholders' perspectives on reforms aimed at reducing dependence on biomass. The workshop took place at the Emory Hotel in Nairobi on December 1, 2023. In attendance were stakeholders playing a pivotal role in the realm of energy namely the Clean Cooking Alliance of Kenya, Green Africa Foundation, Kenya Renewable Energy Association, Civil Societies, Academia, and Government Civil Servants.

Rural areas depend on biomass

A detailed breakdown of the meeting revealed that 92% of rural residents depend on biomass for cooking whereas only 27% of urban residents depend on it, highlighting a substantial challenge in rural areas. Further, it was reported that the residential sector dominates in energy consumption, and biomass (67%) is predominantly used in this sector for cooking. Most households in the residential sector use firewood, followed by Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), and charcoal ranking third. A minor portion of the population across the country (2%) utilizes electricity for cooking.

Root causes and outcomes of biomass use

The stakeholders identified some of the root causes associated with biomass use and the impacts. They highlighted affordability, accessibility, cultural aspects, poor governance, and policy issues as some of the primary contributors to biomass use. The consequences of biomass use include health issues, depletion of forests, wildlife crisis, loss of time, air pollution, accidents (like death due to carbon monoxide), climate change, conflicts, and others.

Policy reforms are needed

The participants learned that to reduce the reliance on biomass, strategies like price-based approaches, involving taxes or subsidies, as well as tariffs, can be employed. Additionally, there are rights-based policy reforms, such as tradable permits and quotas, along with regulation-based measures like bans and the implementation of standards. Finally, an information-based policy can be used, and this involves practices such as informing and raising awareness for example on the adverse impacts of biomass use.

Social inclusivity must be taken into account

During the workshop, stakeholders were tasked to come up with an influence chart regarding a ban on charcoal. Through the exercise, they recognized the existence of adverse consequences for certain groups and positive outcomes for others. Those adversely affected include charcoal burners, brokers, transporters, charcoal traders, Jiko (Stove) traders, low-income households, and charcoal importers.

Groups that regard a ban on charcoal as positive include the Ministry of Environment (fewer trees will be cut down), the Ministry of Energy (they advocate a shift toward cleaner energy sources like LPG), the Ministry of Health (fewer people will suffer from respiratory illnesses), environmental activists, households, and clean energy traders, among others. The key challenge is how to make the transition from dirty fuels to clean fuels without leaving anyone behind.

"I've gained insight from the Inclusive Green Economy (IGE) program that policymaking extends beyond numerical targets; one must also take into account the aspect of social inclusivity," commented Jane Atuta, a fellow of the 2023 IGE cohort.


By: Jane Maina

News | 14 December 2023