Wind and solar energy have become significant participants in primary energy mix, with the new electric battery storage technology poised to remove the continuity of solar and wind energy to provide uninterrupted day and night, all weather grid supplies. Battery storage combinations of up to 100mw capacities have been achieved.
Last month a game-changing solar energy concentration technology was unveiled by Heliogen, a startup company backed by Bill Gates capital. It will concentrate solar energy to a temperature as high as 1,000 degrees Celsius by aligning large mirrors on a single target. This is different from the photo-voltaic (PV) solar technology we are familiar with.
This technology will enable heat-intensive industries like cement and steel to replace use of coal and fuel oil in kilns and furnaces, an area that has eluded climate change solutions. However, for full impact, the scientists will need to follow up with new support technology to store heat for use by the industries when the sun is out.
For Kenya, when this technology is scaled up and commercialized, it will remove the need to use imported high carbon coal and fuel oil in heavy industries. It is possible to also use the concentrated solar heat on water to produce steam to drive turbines to generate electricity.
By 2040, requirements for petroleum fuels support infrastructure (pipelines, depots, refineries, service stations) will have significantly decreased. Globally we shall be approaching peak oil demand with the oil majors having to restructure their business models. And by then, the climatologists will have achieved a major and dear climate change goal.
Where green business opportunities exist, the venture capital will be waiting for researchers to develop commercial-scale climate change solutions. It is a technological and business momentum which Kenya cannot escape. This is why we need to be flexible and proactive in our energy and climate policies and strategies.