Urban energy transition in Kenya

As a part of New Global research, Erika Forstén recently finished her master’s thesis on urban energy transitions in emerging markets. The aim of the thesis was to identify the main urban energy challenges and barriers for the transition to a sustainable urban energy system in Nairobi. A literature review was conducted on socio-technical transitions in urban energy systems along with the challenges and barriers associated with them. The empirical data for the qualitative case study was collected mainly through semi-structured interviews during a field research period.

Over a half of all electricity generated in Kenya is consumed in Nairobi, where the urban population and its energy needs are increasing. The study found that the main urban energy challenges in Nairobi are the unreliability and inefficiency of electricity supply, high cost of electricity and pollution resulting from the use of unsustainable fuels. Barriers hindering the transition to sustainable urban energy include insufficient institutional capacity at the urban level, low awareness and availability of information on renewable energy and energy efficiency, lack of suitable financing mechanisms and lack of collaboration and communication between key stakeholders.

– Further research on the topic should increase understanding on how to overcome the urban energy challenges and provide modern energy services for increasing urban populations in Kenya and other emerging countries in a sustainable manner, says Erika Forstén.

This is critical as energy is not only the largest single contributor to global climate change, but also a critical driver of socio-economic development in emerging countries. Future growth of global energy demand will predominantly come from cities in developing and emerging countries, while Sub-Saharan Africa is among the most rapidly urbanising regions of the world, which also experiences the lowest levels of access to electricity.