Bioenergy fuels are the largest source of energy in Kenya with wood accounting for 65 percent of the total primary consumption. Petroleum and renewable electricity account for 17 percent and 16.5 percent respectively.
Bioenergy provides over 90 percent of rural household energy needs and supplies a substantial portion of process and industrial heat to medium and small to micro-enterprises. Bioenergy in Kenya is largely misunderstood and underestimated.
Biomass is critical in delivering economic, environmental, and social sustainability and is a key to the mitigation of climate change in Kenya.
There exists a direct link between biomass use, poverty, health issues, environmental degradation, and Climate change. Use of biomass for cooking and heating energy poses the single largest threat to forests ahead of timber.
If properly developed and deployed, biomass can deliver energy security, climate protection and sustainability at the least cost.
A 2019 Kenya Cooking Study commissioned by MoE revealed that 65 percent of households use wood as their primary cooking fuel, followed by LPG at 19 percent and charcoal at 10 percent. The study estimated that Kenyans spent Sh68 billion annually on charcoal at the domestic level.
This puts the market value of firewood consumed by households at more than Sh1.33 trillion assuming a 30 percent conversion efficiency and a total annual value of Sh1.387 trillion for woodfuel. This excludes fuelwood used by industrial, SME, MSMEs and institutional consumers.
The commercial value of bioenergy in Kenya is not acknowledged despite the sector offering huge investment and employment opportunities in feedstock development, plantations, production, processing, conversion, sale, retail, end use and financing if structured, developed, licensed, and regulated.
Formalising and regulating bioenergy will lead to investments and activity in a similar manner exhibited by the power and petroleum sectors. The bioenergy value chain is more complex than that of the electricity sector.
Reliance on woodfuel raises significant social, economic, environmental, health concerns. Producing, processing, selling, and utilising biomass energy in all forms encompasses research and development in genetics, agronomy, forestry, chemistry, engineering, marketing, sales, regulation, and licensing.
If the ministry of energy is serious about energy security and sustainability, then the bioenergy sector needs to be comprehensively funded, developed, and managed.
A biomass agency whose vision would be excellence in biomass research and utilisation is essential to ensure sustainability and climate change mitigation.
The mission of the agency would be to undertake bioenergy research through application of science, technology, and innovation to catalyse sustainable development and use of biomass in the energy and forest value chains.
The private sector acknowledges the importance of and the investment and business opportunities that bioenergy offers.
It is time we focused on the real energy priority and set up a bioenergy agency.