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Rural Areas Investing in Renewable Energy

May 27, 2008 -- Business Daily/All Africa Global Media

The United Nations International Development Organisation (Unido) is calling on communities without access to electricity to submit renewable energy production proposals for funding.

The organisation has set aside Sh310 million ($5 million ) for lighting up 100 villages in rural Kenya. The money is part of the body's renewable energy programme which aims to provide 1,000 villages in the country with power derived from solar, hydro, biomass and geothermal sources.

It is hoped that the free projects will help reduce the number of rural Kenyans still relying on non renewable energy resources like charcoal.

The Assistant Minister of Industrialisation, Mr Charles Keter, says only 10 per cent of Kenya's rural population has access to electricity.

"This is a serious impediment to development yet we are endowed with wind solar, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy resources," he said.

Already, eight community power centres have been created in Central, Eastern and Western provinces. "The potential for generating electricity in Kenya with water resources is around 3,000 megawatts, three times the installed capacity," said Mr Alexander Varghese of Unido.

The community energy centres have combined both hydro and solar energy sources, making them hybrid centres with zero carbon emission.

"We also have a vegetable oil, power generation facility on demonstration which we are promoting in power generation centres where non edible oils like Jatropha are available," he said.

The energy produced from is combined at an energy centre where the community can use the power in businesses and cottage industries. However, power distribution to homes has been slowed down by logistical and financial constraints.

The increased power generation by the rural projects is also expected to bring down the high cost of energy, which reduces Kenya's competitiveness in COMESA and other international markets..