How solar appliances build resilience for people in Kenya

@Stiftung Solarenergie - Solar Energy Foundation

Kenya has experienced prolonged droughts since 2000, with moderate drought events recorded on average every three to four years and major droughts every ten years.(1) The drought of 2020 – 2022 was one of the most severe and longest spells; it was widespread and led to livelihood losses and massive displacement of people. As reported in a statement by the ASAL Humanitarian Network (AHN), more than 4.2 million people representing 24% of the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) population were facing high levels of acute food insecurity, with about 2.7 million people in the crisis phase and 785,000 people in an emergency state. This is a 10% increase from 2021 where 2.1 million people were categorised as in an emergency and crisis state(2) .

Farmers have been unable to get any substantive crop production for five consecutive seasons and pastoralist communities have lost their livestock. More than 2.4 million livestock, which pastoralist families rely upon for nourishment and livelihood, have died in Kenya due to the prolonged drought. To address the drought situation, AHN together with local and international partners are safeguarding access to clean and safe water for the local communities through the rehabilitation and solarisation of boreholes.

Solar water pumps can also help farmers build resilience to climate shocks such as droughts. As reported in the uses and impacts of solar water pumps report by the Efficiency for Access Coalition, 23% of farmers cited improved health of crop and livestock with the use of a solar water pump. “Crops were wilting due to shortage of water but now I have access to water and can farm without caution. I also lacked money to buy fuel but now I use solar and don’t have to pay for it.”(3)

Kenya has also experienced at least 17 major floods since the 1960s, with each flooding disaster affecting at least 70,000 people.(4) A study by The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis reveals that many counties in Kenya experience increased power outages during periods of floods. This is mainly due to weak installation and poor maintenance of power transformers and electric poles that are easily destroyed and swept away by floods. Dams that support generation of hydro-electricity fail to handle huge volumes of water during the heavy rain seasons. There are several instances of water overflow in the dams leading to disruption of power provision, thus increasing the number of power outages. It was observed in this study that when power outages occur due to incidences of floods, respondents turned to alternative sources of energy for lighting such as solar.(5)

According to data collected by the National Disaster Management Agency, more than 311,000 people have been displaced by floods across Kenya.(6) Solar lights are usually designed to be portable single units, and solar home systems can be easily dismantled and transported when necessary. In the event of extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods that lead to the displacement of people, smaller solar systems may be more transportable. This could enable households to take their solar system with them when displaced and to have access to electricity in a new location.(7)

Kenya has a high penetration of solar appliances and implements robust quality standards, thus remaining a clear market leader with around one million sales recorded by GOGLA in the first half of 2022.(8) The Off-Grid Solar Market Trends 2022 report on the state of the sector points to the tremendous potential of off-grid solar technologies, including for lighting, communications, irrigation and cooling systems, that will help fortify Kenya’s response to increasingly erratic climatic challenges.

Appliances are critical to help the most vulnerable consumers cope with climate-related risks. Quality assurance helps market actors identify high-quality and durable appliances, enabling consumers to enhance resilience through the deployment of these technologies. In order to realise this potential, however, significant investment will need to be channeled into the off-grid solar sector to reach SDG7 targets and help the most vulnerable consumers cope with climaterelated risks.

According to estimates from IEA and IRENA(9), achieving SDG7 by 2030 would require annual renewable energy investments of approximately $680 billion—around $45 billion on energy access and $625 billion on energy efficiency.(10,11) Furthermore, data from the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that the cost of adaptation in developing countries is expected to reach $300 billion per year by 2030(12); in 2020, finance in global adaptation reached $46 billion,(13) of which only $28.6 billion went to developing countries. As WEF states in their report, this is insufficient.(14)

  1. WorldBank, Climate Risk Country Profile: Kenya.
  2. Relief Web, Drought situation in the Kenya ASAL areas now at crisis level.
  3. Efficiency for Access, Uses and Impacts of Solar Water Pumps.
  4. Science Direct, Nexus between flooding impacts and coping strategies in Nairobi’s settlements.
  5. Research Gate, Effects of floods on infrastructure users in Kenya.
  6. Relief Web, Impact of floods in Kenya: Heavy rains leave thousands of families without homes as World Vision Kenya provides Non Food Items kits in Nakuru County.
  7. ODI, How solar household systems contribute to resilience.
  8. GOGLA, Global Off-grid Solar Market Report Semi-Annual Sales and Impact Data.
  9. International Renewable Energy Agency 2020 Global Renewables Outlook Energy Transformation 2050 Abu Dhabi
  10. IEA, IRENA, UNSD, World Bank, and WHO Tracking SDG7 2021 The Energy Progress Report (Washington DC: World Bank).
  11. IOP Science: Strategic low-cost energy investment opportunities and challenges towards achieving universal electricity access (SDG7) in forty-eight African nations.
  12. UNEP: ’Adaptation Gap Report 2021′.
  13. Climate Policy Initiative: ’Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2021,’.
  14. The World Economic Forum: ’Climate adaptation: the $2 trillion market the private sector cannot ignore’.


Excerpt of: Resilient Appliances for Resilient People and Planet (Efficiency for Access 2023)

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