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Kenyan Research Paper is a Master Class in People Power

The paper “Mid- to long-term capacity planning for a reliable power system in Kenya” has just been published, and the authors are: Mungai Kihara, Pietro Lubello, Ariane Millot, Michelle Akute, Julius Kilonzi, Monicah Kitili, Felister Mukuri, Boniface Kinyanjui, Pooya Hoseinpoori, Adam Hawkes, Abhishek Shivakumar, Dan Welsby and Steve Pye

This study proposes a novel framework to soft link OSeMOSYS, a capacity expansion model (CEM), and FlexTool, a production cost model (PCM), to address the limitations of CEMs in the representation of variable renewable energy sources. Results from this project in Kenya show the effectiveness of the methodology in identifying critical grid issues that would have been missed by the capacity expansion model alone, especially in the case of a higher penetration of non-dispatchable sources.

The Kenyan government is actively looking to understand and assess these challenges via their planning process, both in the short and longer term, through a process started in 2016 with the publication of the Power Generation and Transmission Master Plan

Here, three of the authors discuss the paper and its journey to publication.

Ariane Millot: “the key features of this project were that it was demand-led to address the key priorities for Kenya; the development of the project – its models and scenarios – was entirely co-operative; the planning team formed from several organisations, was essential to the success of the project; the models used were open source as per CCG’s ethos and all the data was published.”

Pietro Lubello: “I think one of the key points is that it was really led by the people of Kenya. The first author is Kihara from the Ministry of Energy. Everything is really the output of months of work with people in country and they are very much a part of this study.  We know that modelling elsewhere is sometimes done by people from Europe or the US for people in country, but in this case the approach we tried to have was to have the people of Kenya do it themselves.

Michelle Akute: I think what you have mentioned is a very good point and I’d like to talk about the process.  We started at the point where we were doing the online courses on OSeMOSYS, and FlexTool on the OpenLearn platform, because we wanted to build capacity for the group all together. We did the course with CCG and went through the tutorials together. That put us at a certain level and then, when the idea of attending the Summer Schools was floated, from the Kenyan side, we decided to attend to start to put the Kenya model together with the team and CCG and this was very helpful, the best it could have been from our point of view.

It was a fascinating process because we started off by aggregating all the resources together. Then we said ‘no, this won’t work’ so we went down to power plant level. But we also acknowledged that new technologies were coming in which offered other options. In my view, the process has been very, very tailored to what we needed, and it completely reflects what we need in our system. 

I remember saying to my colleague Beth Tennyson that it had been very good not just because we were doing it together, but because we had never been in this position where we had a model introduced to us as a team and were able to access support. A lot of the time you either end up troubleshooting by yourself or you don’t get a solution and you give up entirely on what you’re doing. But in this case, when there was something new or the team had to think about ways to customize the technologies modelled, they could do that because CCG were there to explain it to them one-on-one.

And now all the members of our team have an excellent understanding of these tools and more besides. Often with a smaller team you find that only a small part of the team will understand something, but in this case, we had a team of forty and we built capacity for the whole entire team at that time.  

I believe that this is the biggest capacity building that we have ever done and so openly, in a way that we have never experienced before.

Ariane: The modelling process took two years in total, including workshops.  We were working with the LCPDP team (Least Cost Power Development Plan) which includes several institutions in Kenya: the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum (MOEP), The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC), The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO), Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA), Geothermal Development Company (GDC) and The Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC).

Michelle: The support has been immense.  Some partners gave us their data and others did more, so everyone participated in one way or another. The Ministry of Energy spearheaded this process, involving CCG and connecting them with this partnership.  And I remember in our first meeting that the FCDO was involved in trying to identify where the gap was and proposing a framework leading to meet the identified needs.  Hellen Kuria from the FCDO was very helpful.

And what is the next stage, following on from this successful outcome?

Pietro: From a research point of view, several different things. With the World Resources Institute, we have been working on an innovative approach to identify the best sites to install solar and wind power plants, a mapping exercise that could help planners and attract potential investors. As well as this power sector model, we have developed a Whole Energy System Model, which is what we are currently working on in Kenya. The model has already been used to develop the national e-cooking strategy, to be published by the Ministry of Energy in the next months, and is well positioned to play a key role in the new energy planning process that is currently being developed in country.

Michelle: What this project has done in a major way is to help the power sector move beyond the tools that we have been using and it’s given us an open-mindedness. Previously, I think, maybe the sector used to look down on open-source materials in favour of others but those were very expensive.  This view has changed now. The sector needed that sort of experience first-hand to realize that, yes, we can get an open-source tool that is free and use it to make decisions based on its analysis.

Like Pietro said, now that we’re moving to the Whole Energy System, the Ministry of Energy will be trying to see if they can feed this work into the INEP process which aims to have an integrated plan rather than separate ones for each sector that don’t talk to each other. That is the end goal that the ministry has been trying to move toward and it’s gradually coming together. So having that experience of using an open-source tool has been very useful.