NEWS RAEL team publishes Power sector model for a low-​​carbon Kenya

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Click here for a direct link to the paper, pub­lished in Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy (ES&T).

Fast grow­ing and emerg­ing economies face the dual chal­lenge of sus­tain­ably expand­ing and improv­ing their energy sup­ply and reli­a­bil­ity while at the same time reduc­ing poverty. Crit­i­cal to such trans­for­ma­tion is to pro­vide afford­able and sus­tain­able access to elec­tric­ity. We use the capac­ity expan­sion model SWITCH to explore low car­bon devel­op­ment path­ways for the Kenyan power sec­tor under a set of plau­si­ble sce­nar­ios for fast grow­ing economies that include uncer­tainty in load pro­jec­tions, cap­i­tal costs, oper­a­tional per­for­mance, and tech­nol­ogy and envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies. In addi­tion to an aggres­sive and needed expan­sion of over­all sup­ply, the Kenyan power sys­tem presents a unique tran­si­tion from one basal renew­able resource− hydropower− to another based on geot­her­mal and wind power for ∼ 90% of total capac­ity. We find geot­her­mal resource adop­tion is more sen­si­tive to oper­a­tional degra­da­tion than high cap­i­tal costs, which sug­gests an empha­sis on ongo­ing main­te­nance sub­si­dies rather than upfront cap­i­tal cost sub­si­dies. We also find that a cost-​​effective and viable suite of solu­tions includes avail­abil­ity of stor­age, diesel engines, and trans­mis­sion expan­sion to pro­vide flex­i­bil­ity to enable up to 50% of wind power pen­e­tra­tion. In an already low-​​carbon sys­tem, typ­i­cal exter­nal­ity pric­ing for CO2  has lit­tle to no effect on tech­nol­ogy choice. Con­se­quently, a “ zero car­bon emis­sions”  by 2030 sce­nario is pos­si­ble with only mod­er­ate lev­elized cost increases of between $3 and $7/​MWh with a num­ber of social and reli­a­bil­ity ben­e­fits. Our results sug­gest that fast grow­ing and emerg­ing economies could ben­e­fit by incen­tiviz­ing antic­i­pated strate­gic trans­mis­sion expan­sion. Exist­ing and new diesel and nat­ural gas capac­ity can play an impor­tant role to pro­vide flex­i­bil­ity and meet peak demand in spe­cific hours with­out a sig­nif­i­cant increase in car­bon emis­sions, although more research is required for other pol­lu­tant’ s impacts.

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