The idyllic Chale Island in Kwale County is set to get renewable electricity for the first time ever and say goodbye to pollutant fossil fuels.
For years, the electricity powering the needs of the well-known tourist destination off the coast of Diani came from diesel powered generators.
A huge part of the island sits on a marine national reserve under the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the National Museums of Kenya (NMK).
Resorts off the Diani beach which offer an expansive 20km of powder white sand which meets the Indian Ocean on Kenya’s south coastline are now a new frontier of investment in the tourism industry due to their potential to tap into the high end market.
An investor with huge interest in the tourism industry is partnering with Kenya Power to connect the island located near the world-famous Diani beach to 100 per cent renewable energy.
Diani Beach in Msambweni Sub County has been awarded the best seashore destination in Africa for six years consecutively by world travel awards.
Plans to finally connect the small island that has the capacity to attract high end tourists to the national power grid are at an advanced stage.
Kwale County Kenya Power boss Calvin Jagongo said the proprietor of Chale Island Resort is ready to purchase state-of-the art submarine cable systems for transmitting power to the island from the mainland side of Diani township.
He said a submarine cable is a transmission cable for carrying electric power below the surface of the water in the sea.
Jagongo said the new system has the potential to transform electricity systems and provide a renewable, reliable, secure and affordable energy supply to the island.
He said clean and renewable energy offers the country the shortest route to lighting off-grid areas that have for long relied on expensive diesel powered generators to produce electricity.
The General Manager (GM) Chale Island Resort Andrea Anelli said they were ready to spend about Sh8 to Sh9 million to take electricity to the historic island.
He said the hotel establishment derives its electricity from low-speed diesel engines but the small island has the potential to rapidly transition its energy systems to renewable energy.
“We are ready to meet the cost of procuring submarine cables and installation to allow the island to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy,” he said in Kwale town.
Anelli who spoke during a stakeholders meeting chaired by Kwale County Commissioner (CC) Gideon Oyagi said the new electricity system in the island would lead to more reliable electricity and a reduction in electricity bills.
Oyagi said the island power connection is awaiting approvals from environmental regulators such as the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) and KWS among other relevant regulatory agencies.
“All the government regulatory agencies are ready to give the project the greenlight to proceed once an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, which is a critical examination of the effects of a project on the environment is done,” he said.
The County Director of Environment Godfrey Wafula says the investor would have to abide by NEMA regulations so as to ensure the power project does not interfere with the stunning white beach fringed by coral reefs surrounded by mangrove forest.
Wafula noted that Chale Island is home to an ancient mangrove forest that surrounds the resort, with a long white sand bay protected by coral reef.
He said two thirds of the island is occupied by an ancient mangrove sacred Kaya (forest) that boasts the tallest mangrove trees in East Africa and which the NMK has gazetted as a national monument in the 1980s.
Wafula noted NEMA welcomes the switch from fossil-fueled to renewable energy saying it would ‘make a world of difference by bringing down high electricity prices’.
He said the success of the electricity system on Chale Island provides an important example to other islands in the region of the opportunity to achieve high levels of renewable energy penetration.
By Hussein Abdullahi