The success story of Ringiti Island

Lydia Kwambo­ka Ondi­ti, par­tic­i­pant of the COBENEFITS Online Train­ing, Kenya

In this part of our series Co-ben­e­fits Sto­ries, Lydia Kwambo­ka Ondi­ti told us how the intro­duc­tion of a solar mini grid improved people‘s lives on Rin­gi­ti Island, Kenya. For this series, we have asked ener­gy pro­fes­sion­als that have par­tic­i­pat­ed in our train­ings for their thoughts and expe­ri­ences on co-ben­e­fits of renew­able ener­gy in their country.

“Renew­able ener­gy has over­time proven to be ben­e­fi­cial to Kenya’s econ­o­my. Most of the country’s elec­tric­i­ty is pro­duced from hydro­elec­tric­i­ty and geot­her­mal ener­gy. The costs of trans­mis­sion has been pro­hib­i­tive, and many rur­al areas are not con­nect­ed to the grid. Most of the rur­al pop­u­la­tion is still depen­dent on the use of Kerosene lamps as their source of light. This is not only unhealthy for the users because of increased res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases, it also affects the envi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion lead­ing to adverse effects on cli­mate change.

The use of renew­able ener­gy has a lot of social and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits to a coun­try. Take the exam­ple of solar mini grids that were installed in Rin­gi­ti Island in Homabay coun­ty: until 2018, the island’s peo­ple had no reli­able source of elec­tric­i­ty. They were depen­dent on the use of kerosene, petrol and dis­pos­able bat­ter­ies. Rin­gi­ti Island’s main eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty is fish­ing. With no elec­tric­i­ty, most of their fish spoiled and the fish­er­men were forced to sell them at low prices that amount­ed to loss­es. With the intro­duc­tion of a solar mini grid, many busi­ness­es opened, lead­ing to increased employ­ment of the local community’s mem­bers, hence reduc­ing the pover­ty level.

Tak­ing Rin­gi­ti Island’s suc­cess sto­ry into con­sid­er­a­tion, the gov­ern­ment can scale up the process of rur­al elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, as this will lead to enhanced eco­nom­ic growth in the country.

Fac­ing the COVID 19 pan­dem­ic, the cur­rent­ly approved vac­cines require cold stor­age which is lim­it­ed in most rur­al areas which run short on pow­er sup­ply. The min­istry of health could pro­mote the use of solar pow­ered freez­ers in such areas. This will have both a social effect as more peo­ple will be vac­ci­nat­ed which will decrease the spread of the virus, as well as an eco­nom­ic effect as more peo­ple will be able to work and thus effec­tive­ly lead to an over­all growth of the country’s economy.”

This is a project for a grid tie solar pump­ing sys­tem in Busia Coun­ty in Kenya. The coun­ty gov­ern­ment was incur­ring huge pow­er bills. They installed a 126KW solar PV sys­tem that reduced their pow­er bills and ensured that the town had a con­sis­tent sup­ply of water.
(© Lydia Kwambo­ka Onditi) 

Based on insights of the COBENEFITS research group, the Renew­ables Acad­e­my (RENAC) cur­rent­ly con­ducts train­ings in Turkey, Kenya, South Africa and Mex­i­co. Par­tic­i­pants learn about co-ben­e­fits of renew­able ener­gy in cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion, tools to quan­ti­fy and com­mu­ni­cate social and eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties and poli­cies and instru­ments to mobilise them.