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Ministry of Energy Addressing the Gender Gap in the Energy Sector

March 2, 2018 | | Conference

Paul Mbuthi, Ministry of Energy

At the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference the Ministry of Energy was represented by Paul Mbuthi, Senior Assistant Director of Renewable Energy. Mr. Mbuthi conveyed the apologies of Dr. Eng. Joseph Njoroge, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Energy of Petroleum who was out of the country on official duty. In his opening statement, Mr. Mbuthi said the purpose of Women in Energy Awards and Conference is to nurture talent. He called on women to seize opportunities in the energy sector.

The Ministry of Energy is aware of the gender gap in the energy sector. Through the Draft Policy of 2016 and Performance Contract of 2017, the Ministry of Energy aspires to implement progressive policies that empower women, promote gender inclusiveness and provide equal opportunities to reduce the historical and current gender imbalances in the energy sector, noting that gender inequality is prevalent across the entire government sector. Narrowing the gender gap is also part of Kenya’s commitment to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 which addresses gender inequality.

The Ministry of Energy aims to narrow the gender gap by specifically targeting recruitment, training, deployment and promotion of women. The Constitution of Kenya provides a clear provision to reduce the gender gap to which the Ministry of Energy is committed to by:

  • Implementing the 2/3 rule for appointment positions
  • Ensuring that 30% of the procurement budget is dedicated to women, youth and people with disabilities
  • Allocating 40% of the procurement budget on locally produced goods and services through the Buy Kenya, Build Kenya Program

One of the Ministry of Energy flagship programs is the Last Mile Project under implementation by Kenya Power. The project seeks to minimize the gender gap by scaling up access to electricity using subsidized connection rates for vulnerable groups in society.

The Feed-In-Tariff program offers opportunities for energy production and service enterprises. The next level of bold commitment intends to set reserves for women-led enterprises as part of affirmative action to narrow the gender gap.

Given the historical imbalances, the Government of Kenya has implemented affirmative action to bring everyone to par. To that end, the Ministry of Energy has an open door policy geared toward reinforcing each other. Women in Energy Awards and Conference is a forum to bring people together who will share their experiences and change the way we do business in Kenya and make a bigger impact in our society.

Energy Sector Overview

Biomass forms the main source of energy for Kenya. It accounts for up 70% on the national scale and over 90% of the energy source in the rural areas that is able to meet the energy needs at the household level. From the household viewpoint, women take the responsibility of ensuring there is sufficient energy to meets their family’s needs.

From the energy perspective, we have to take into account the energy policies in place and their impact on women, men and children. Mega projects do not generate energy at a household level necessary to prepare food. We need to change our paradigm to ensure we empower all the people involved in the supply chain, without the drudgery and health risks. We need to recognize women’s efforts in sourcing energy for household use. As a trained Gender Trainer, Mr. Mbuthi believes we need to re-engineer our thinking.

As we transition into renewable energy, together with the worldwide community, we are transforming the energy sector. We are modernizing the energy we use and incorporating more bioenergy as we eliminate traditional forms which have a lot of attendant negative effects. In the transition, women need to identify and seize opportunities.

We have good ideas, but they seldom translate into action because there are gaps in resources to translate the ideas into action. The role of the Ministry is essentially to facilitate the acquisition of clean energy. As we go forward, we contend with the question, are we targeting correctly? Whose interests are being served by each policy crafted?

The role of government is to look through the issues the redesign programs. The national government has come up with a design framework that needs to be cascaded to the counties for implementation. We need to see the Women Enterprises Fund scaled up and well-managed. We need to see the Youth Fund targeted to address energy access. These actions will be possible when everyone takes their role and seizes the opportunities.

Finally, as the government thinks about conventional energy, the responsibility to look at that energy that makes the country and its citizens tick needs to be re-engineered. In 2013, we began the 5,000+ MW grid. However, even if we had the 5,000 MW it would not have made a big difference in the household—how many in Kenya use electricity to cook? It is not affordable. As we go forward, how do we integrate the other fundamental needs that must be addressed? Who are to deliver on these questions? Here, we underscore, there are opportunities. We need women entrepreneurs to present their ideas for incubation to allow us to create a sustainable society which will make life more bearable and happier.

Kenya to Cut Emissions by 30% under Climate Change Accord (Paris Agreement)

The world is transitioning to renewable energy in response to changes to agreed-upon frameworks, including the Paris Agreement of 2015. In the Paris Agreement, Kenya agreed to cut emissions by 30%. Regardless of indigenous energy sources, Kenya’s energy sector will progressively continue to increase the use of renewable energy to address the country’s energy needs to reduce emissions. The majority of Kenya’s clean renewable energy is geothermal. The energy mix also includes wind and solar power. The country’s response to the Paris Agreement creates opportunities for women to be proactive in the delivery of energy solutions for the country.

The transition from indigenous energy sources such as coal and oil creates a dilemma as to how we navigate forward in light of the World Bank and several bilateral agreements phasing out support for oil and gas. There is on-going debate concerning coal; a resolution is still forthcoming.

During COP23, a technical follow-up to the Paris Agreement, the US advocated for cleaner technologies as opposed to adopting the Paris Agreement targets. However, the world’s nations backed clean renewable energy. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Kenya will be expected to make her contributions along the proposed framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The World Bank is currently funding the Kenya Off Grid Solar Access Project KOGSAP which provides solar related energy solutions in underserved counties. The solar powered solutions include solar home systems and solar applications for water pumping. Increasingly, Kenya is relying on irrigated agriculture creating demand for solar irrigation technology.

The Energy Bill

The Energy Bill which calls for robust energy regulations is yet to be enacted. As of December 2017, the Bill was still under review in Parliament. There are various renewable energy technology regulations, solar water heating regulations and the energy efficiency and conservation regulations that stipulate certain requirements that ensure a level playing field for all players including the entrepreneurs.

The regulator, Energy Regulatory Commission ERC, is very active in ensuring that the regulations set certain parameters to safeguard the services provide. The technologies Kenya adopt needs to be guided to make certain Kenya does not take up technology that is being discontinued elsewhere around the world.

By the first quarter of 2018, the Ministry of Energy believes the Energy Bill will be law, since it has already been through the legislative process but did not become law because President raised concerns that have been addressed. Kenya will use regulations to ensure development initiatives are within the frameworks of the environment, efficiency and international agreements, principally the Paris Agreement.

Streamlining Power Purchase Agreement for Women-Led Enterprises

The feed-in-tariff policy has standard templates for Power Purchase Agreement PPA that can be expedited. Women entrepreneurs who want to invest with the feed-in-tariff projects will not undergo a vigorous process to get the PPA. The feed-in-tariff program requires feed-in-tariff projects get first priority. The off taker, Kenya Power, is obliged to take up any capacities that are coming through the feed-in-tariff program.

When the Energy Bill is enacted, it will diversify PPAs into energy auctions where the government will offer tenders with requested capacity. Contractors and service providers will respond with bids to provide the capacity using the dictated parameters of supply. Women entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply.

Public Participation in the Energy Sector Projects

Senior Assistant Director for Renewable Energy at the Ministry of Energy, Paul Mbuthi was asked at the 2nd Women in Energy Awards and Conference held in December 2017 to talk about public participation in Ministry of Energy projects. Mr. Mbuthi began by saying that the measurements of effective public participation are not clearly defined. The Constitution requires public participation as a key principle for public discourse and decision making. In some projects, when the public is engaged in a forum, it is assumed that the public participation requirement has been met.

For energy sector programs, public participation is evaluated on a project-by-project basis because each project has a different level of public participation. For example, the policy on public participation required public participation. The Ministry of Energy defined and invited key stakeholders to draft and comment on the policy.

It is important to understand that it is not practical for everyone to be involved in public participation. As such, the Ministry of Energy will reach out to the key stakeholders. It is equally essential to recognize that when public participation is not effective it can lead to disastrous outcomes. In December 2017, the Government of Kenya was in litigation over the Kinagop Wind Power Project because issues regarding public participation were not successfully resolved and when the project collapsed, the investors sued the Government.

However, where there are clearly defined policies on appropriate levels of public participation, the Ministry of Energy, follows through, engaging key key stakeholders and obtaining applicable Environmental Impact Assessment licences.

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