The Narok County government in southewestern Kenya, Solar Kiosk Kenya Ltd and the European Union (EU) have officially launched the country’s first Power Kiosk project in a bid to scale up rural electrification.

The launch brings to the country energy and business outlets for solar products, fast-moving consumer goods and energy services. The key objective of the Power Kiosk project is to address the needs of remote rural communities, households and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for access to clean energy.

Speaking at the launch here Tuesday, the head of infrastructure at the EU Delegation to Kenya, Walter Tretton, said: “The EU is happy to support this project. The lack of access to electricity is a serious problem which the European Union helps to combat.

“The road out of poverty is directly connected to access to information and education. Both can be significantly improved through access to electricity.”

He said the power kiosk project would raise awareness to improve essential understanding of renewable energy. “It will also enable new business opportunities powered by solar energy and help transform marginalised communities into self-sustainable and evolving clean energy centres that can develop local economies.”

Tretton added that marginalised regions in rural Kenya had abundant sunshine which was a key resource for sustainable and decentralised energy solutions.

An estimated 1.5 billion people globally live in communities which are not connected to the electricity grid and reports show that the continuous high costs of connectivity significantly reduce local income and have negative impacts on personal health and the environment.

The current infrastructure in rural target areas in Kenya has only small percentage of rural citizens connected to the power grid. This in turn puts pressure on natural resources like overuse of wood fuel, reliance on biomass and biofuel that contribute to in-house pollution and health issues, and limited business due to the lack of power.

Although Kenya has various energy supply sources like hydro-power (57 per cent), thermal (32 per cent), solar and wind energy still only account for less than 1.0 per cent of the electricity supply. It is estimated that about 90 per cent of the rural population depends on firewood, out of which only four per cent have a constant supply of electricity.

Charcoal, firewood, residues and dung, paraffin and LPG gas are widely used for home cooking. About 87 per cent use kerosene for lighting.

The launch in Kimogoro Village in Narok County marked the official opening of the first 22 power kiosks already being operated by Solar Kiosks Kenya Ltd out of a targeted 40 power kiosks.

These kiosks will mostly cover arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) in Narok, Kajiado, Kwale, Tana, Marsabit, Samburu and Turkana counties.