Solar power to the people

(China Dialogue, 3 Feb 2023) The second instalment of this two-part series visits the Garissa solar power plant in eastern Kenya to explore the role of renewables in the energy transition.

Heading north from the town of Garissa in eastern Kenya, the dusty road forms a straight line a few hundred metres away from the bends of the Tana River. Nothing hints of the river’s presence. All around is only desert and thorny shrub, with the occasional mosque and a scattering of tin-roofed homes.

Also hidden from the road is something that seems even more incongruous out here in one of Kenya’s poorest counties. In the middle of the desert, 14 kilometres from the centre of Garissa, there’s a vast sea of glimmering panels set out in uniform lines – the largest grid-connected solar power plant in East and Central Africa.

Mohammed Abdi, an elder from the nearby village of Raya, remembers when then President Uhuru Kenyatta opened the plant in December 2019.

“We were promised that every household would be provided with solar-powered electricity. But so far, this hasn’t happened. It would help us a lot with our farming. It’s costly to irrigate.”

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China Dialogue, 3 Feb 2023: Solar power to the people