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Sustainable Low-​​Carbon Expansion for the Power Sector of an Emerging Economy: The Case of Kenya

Abstract

Fast growing and emerging economies face the 9 dual challenge of sustainably expanding and improving their 10 energy supply and reliability while at the same time reducing 11 poverty. Critical to such transformation is to provide affordable 12 and sustainable access to electricity. We use the capacity 13 expansion model SWITCH to explore low carbon development 14 pathways for the Kenyan power sector under a set of plausible 15 scenarios for fast growing economies that include uncertainty in 16 load projections, capital costs, operational performance, and 17 technology and environmental policies. In addition to an 18 aggressive and needed expansion of overall supply, the Kenyan 19 power system presents a unique transition from one basal 20 renewable resource−hydropower−to another based on geo21 thermal and wind power for ∼90% of total capacity. We find 22 geothermal resource adoption is more sensitive to operational degradation than high capital costs, which suggests an emphasis on 23 ongoing maintenance subsidies rather than upfront capital cost subsidies. We also find that a cost-effective and viable suite of 24 solutions includes availability of storage, diesel engines, and transmission expansion to provide flexibility to enable up to 50% of 25 wind power penetration. In an already low-carbon system, typical externality pricing for CO2 has little to no effect on technology 26 choice. Consequently, a “zero carbon emissions” by 2030 scenario is possible with only moderate levelized cost increases of 27 between $3 and $7/MWh with a number of social and reliability benefits. Our results suggest that fast growing and emerging 28 economies could benefit by incentivizing anticipated strategic transmission expansion. Existing and new diesel and natural gas 29 capacity can play an important role to provide flexibility and meet peak demand in specific hours without a significant increase in 30 carbon emissions, although more research is required for other pollutant’s impacts.

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