About 80 per cent of Kenyans depend on wood-fuel for their energy needs. This dependence on wood-fuel has placed the forests under immense pressure. Other key sources of energy are electricity and oil. In 2011, Kenya imported 6,000 tonnes of petroleum products, up from 3,500 in 2001. However, reports indicate Kenya could save $71 million (Sh6.4 billion) per year by substituting 12 per cent (10 per cent of gasoline and 2 per cent of diesel) of its imports with locally produced biofuels by 2013.
Kenya could produce 27,400 tonnes (32 million litres) of biodiesel annually utilising 50,000 hectares of land. Jatropha has been identified as the main feedstock for biodiesel production. Others are castor, coconut, croton, rapeseed, and sunflower. Local companies, such as Mumias Sugar, and international investors, have shown great interest in starting bio-fuel investments in the country. A draft national biofuel policy strategy was published earlier in 2011. The draft strategy aims at increasing accessibility to energy (through biofuel production) and reducing carbon emissions.
A multi-billion shilling project at the Coast that aims to tap an alternative to conventional oil, could boost Kenya’s efforts to produce biodiesel. Bedford Biofuels – a private firm with operations in Asia and Africa – acquired 200,000ha from group ranches in Tana River County for Kenya’s first biodiesel scheme, which according to scientists, will significantly cut down carbon emissions even as it helps Kenya deal with fuel supply. Bedford Biofuels has a 45-year lease on the land to plant Jatropha. The plantation is also expected to cut down carbon emissions, and make it possible for Bedford to earn carboncredits.
According to the environment impact assessment by the company, one tonne of biodiesel from Jatropha can prevent three tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, due to capture and storage of atmospheric carbon in the plant’s biomass, one hectare of mature Jatropha can impound 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide for more than 40 years. Jatropha plantations are, therefore, potentially eligible to be considered under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.