Align petroleum and electricity infrastructure with energy shift

An electric vehicle charging.

Photo credit: Pool

The way fixed-line telephony was replaced by mobile and internet technologies, so will petroleum-based energy be replaced by renewable energy technologies, which include electric mobility. It is already happening here in Kenya aided by new EV investments, facilitative policies and fiscal support. This is why petroleum supply chain players should reflect on renewable energy phase-in in their petroleum demands projections and investments.

Over the past two years China has surprised the world with the speed at which it has increased electric vehicles market penetration in local and export markets.

The country is making cheaper and affordable EVs with many models that match all levels of consumer pockets — the perfect way to achieve global mass uptake.

I estimate that within 10 years, Kenya will be beyond halfway mark in conversion from petroleum to electric mobility. This is why more electricity and less petroleum supply chain infrastructure will be required, a reality that State energy agencies and private investors need to consider when planning both petroleum and electricity infrastructure.

In terms of commercial primary energy used in Kenya, petroleum is about 70 percent of demands with electricity taking about 30 percent, an indication of how much more renewable power generation capacity, both grid and captive, will be needed to replace petroleum.

Simultaneously, Kenya Pipeline Company and private sector oil firms should be scaling down capacity enhancement projects. And this includes reduced licensing of service stations that are mushrooming across the country.

Concurrently more EV charging points should be added across the country. However, the speed at which EV battery technologies are evolving will soon make EV charging increasingly simple and flexible to the extent of charging vehicles anywhere including at home.

LPG is the only petroleum product that has a promising future with demand expected to continue climbing as it replaces kerosene and firewood. However, at some point it will be challenged by new renewable energy cooking technologies, for indeed LPG is a carbon emitting fossil fuel.

Aviation fuel, which is essentially kerosene, will take much longer to replace as alternative aviation renewables are yet to attain critical mass production.

In respect of Turkana oil resources, my reasoning is that a simple design local refinery with a project life of 15-20 years can be constructed to commercialise the oil resources. Forex savings from oil imports should be sufficient to justify viability of such a project. A pipeline from Turkana to Eldoret can allow products pump-back to Nairobi using reverse-flow technologies.

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