By Christine Muchira
The Rural Electrification Authority (REA) is planning to expend Shs. 11 billion in the next five years in an ambitious rural power project to connect electricity to public facilities across the country.
REA chairman Simon Gicharu says the authority has completed connecting 23,000 public primary schools to the national power grid and was looking at the second phase of connecting power to secondary schools, health centres, churches, shopping centres and other public amenities.
Dr. Gicharu says the extended rural power project for the public facilities will be implemented in all the 47 counties.
He at the same time revealed that the country has already acquired 12 billion shillings from the Chinese government and is set to start installation of the first mega solar power plant in the country, the biggest in the East African region.
Dr. Gicharu says the 55 mega watts plant will be set up in Garissa County and is expected to offer long term solution to power outages common in the county.
He while on a courtesy call to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) headquarters in Mombasa today challenged the authority to invest in solar energy for use in areas where bulky electricity is not required.
REA chairman Gicharu revealed that there is an ongoing feasibility study in Mombasa County which has been earmarked for a similar mega solar project given its year-round sunny weather conditions.
‘Mombasa is endowed with sunshine and is capable of sustaining the solar project, we are keen on areas where such projects can be sustained because it is a massive investment’ said Dr. Gicharu.
Dr. Gicharu who also the chairman of Mount Kenya University (MKU) urged curriculum developers in institutions of higher learning, to incorporate solar development training in the syllabus to equip students with relevant and emerging needs in the global market.
He regretted that solar harvest in the country was low despite enjoying a favorable climate compared to the developed world including Germany that harvest much more.
‘Germany experiences sunny weather for only three months throughout the year yet they have the biggest solar infrastructure in the world and harvest enough solar power to sustain them for 9 months’ said Dr. Gicharu.
According to Dr. Gicharu, solar power contributed to Singapore’s rapid development and the same could be replicated in the country.
He said the high unemployment levels facing the youth could be a thing of the past if solar power is harnessed to spur cottage industry at the countryside and stem rural-urban migration.
‘We seek to open up rural areas through solar power energy and discourage rural-urban migration and create jobs in the villages’ he said.
Meanwhile, KPA Chairman Marsden Madoka hailed REA stating that the two government agencies were working closely to achieve efficiency and effectiveness.
However, he said that KPA had already taken over the second container terminal and would start operation in the next one to two months.