Ideas & Debate

KPC strategy heralds cheaper and safer cooking gas in Kenya


A drop in cooking gas prices has created a high demand for LGP among Kenyan households. PHOTO | FILE

Lives of rural and urban communities in Kenya are set to fundamentally transform when government plans to bring down the cost of LPG (cooking gas) come to fruition.

Spearheaded by Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and other State agencies in the energy sector, the efforts to have cheaper, safe and accessible LPG is to have all Kenyans access more clean energy as opposed to kerosene and firewood which are blamed for increased health problems.

As the country puts in place strategies to become a middle income polity in line with Vision 2030, a critical cog in that wheel of development is access to clean, modern, safe and efficient household energy.

KPC’s Corporate Strategic Plan dubbed Vision 2025 eloquently speaks to the emerging oil and gas opportunities in Kenya that we must seize to change the face and future of energy consumption.

One of these opportunities is enhancing LPG penetration in the rural and urban spheres to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods because LPG has the capacity to open up new possibilities for the poor.

Currently, the country lacks a common user import terminal under the control of the government for cooking gas since there are no government-controlled storage facilities for LPG.

But sector stakeholders are working to increase the availability of clean and safe cooking fuel to households and a proposal has been made to follow a common user and open access supply logistics system managed by KPC.

The proposed plan would involve KPC constructing a storage terminal in Mombasa and additional storage facilities in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and Sagana that would be accessed by marketers and distributors.

With KPC’s acquisition of Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited facility in Mombasa to boost the country’s fuel storage potential, there is also adequate land to put up an LPG bottling and storage plant.

This will significantly drive down the cost of cooking gas. As one of the key Vision 2030 flagship projects, the initiative will also stem cowboy suppliers who are currently putting thousands of Kenyans’ lives at risk by selling substandard cylinders.

To demonstrate why LPG penetration in the country should remain the bedrock of KPC strategy is the fact that the rate at which cooking gas is being consumed is inordinately high.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, LPG uptake surged by 233 per cent in the first five months of the year due to falling prices, with households buying 76,800 tonnes compared to 23,000 tonnes for a similar period last year.

In June, the government also cancelled the 16 per cent value added tax that had been levied on cooking gas to make it more accessible.

This encouraging trend signifies a good future with less deforestation and less health complications amongst our people.

It is an inconvenient fact that much of sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, has had its natural forest cover stripped due to unsustainable, over reliance on wood fuel as a source of primary energy.

In 1963, forest covered 10 per cent of land in Kenya and by 2006, that dropped to 1.7 per cent. The Kenya Forestry Working Group estimates that country will lose Sh30 billion annually through deforestation from the tourism, tea and energy sectors.

It is clear that the resource is being depleted faster than it is being replenished — an obvious indicator that wood fuel is not a sustainable source of energy.

In terms of health, smoke generated from cooking over a wood flame is extremely hazardous to one’s health and those around them.

Studies have shown that thousands of deaths occur annually due to the adverse impacts of indoor pollution on human health.

The World Health Organisation estimates that globally, more than half a million premature deaths occur annually as a result of indoor pollution exceeding the burdens of malaria, tuberculosis and Aids combined!

Therefore, increasing the use of LPG for cooking in Kenya is seen as one of the best solutions.

Besides health benefits, use of LPG also helps reduce the time needed to collect and prepare biomass fuel for cooking. Women spend a great deal of time collecting firewood and bringing it back home.

Some actually walk up to 10 kilometres each day solely for collecting firewood. Use of cooking gas can drastically reduce this collection time as well as the strain that is caused by carrying such heavy loads.

Evidently, LPG has capacity to transform the country into a clean and cheap energy destination. As KPC, we want to highlight our consistent commitment in getting LPG into Kenyan houses where it can save and improve millions of lives.

The writer is the managing director, Kenya Pipeline Company. Email: [email protected]