Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Farm: A Role Model for Sustainability

After 3 years of construction, Kenya’s Lake Turkana Power Project is finally due to open in July 2017. A study realized by the USAID Global Climate Change Office, and implemented by ICF in partnership with the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership, analyzes the numerous benefits of this project at the social, economic and environmental level. Awarded during the 2014 edition of the African Renewables Deal of the Year at the IJGlobal Awards 2014 Europe & Africa, this project goes far beyond purely economic consideration.

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First of all, it will increase national electricity supply by 15 to 20% making Kenya’s energy infrastructure more reliable. Thus, Kenya’s dependence on foreign fuel imports will be reduced, and prices will stabilize due to having a more secure energy supply. What is more, 2000 jobs have been created and 200 km of roads have been constructed thanks to this wind farm project. Depending on the wind’s force, this project will also have significant benefits on the environment. The reduction of greenhouse-gases will amount to roughly 740,000 tons of carbon dioxide on average each year.

Furthermore, in addition to being the largest private investment in Kenya’s history, this venture has ensured that it integrates the social welfare of the local population in an effort to leave no one behind, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) . It will support access to energy in a country where fewer than 50% of the population are connected to the electricity grid. Most important however, the project, covering 162 square kilometers, will take into consideration the surrounding communities. It has done so by not only organizing resettlement for the several hundred-people living in the construction zone, and compensating community members for loss of income, but also by establishing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. These programs have enabled improved access to food, health facilities, water and education, and created local leadership roles, translating into 150 permanent local jobs. A study from The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment concluded that the socioeconomic benefits of the project outweighs its costs.

In light of the numerous positive impacts of this renewable energy development, the Lake Turkana wind farm could be an inspiring role model for other countries on the continent and abroad to follow. In Africa, many countries possess strong wind resources in areas of low population density, while facing at the same time rising levels of energy demand. Investing in innovative projects like Lake Turkana wind farm could therefore be the key to meeting the requirements of economic development within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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