Staring out her office window, the barren landscape weighs heavily upon her mind. She knows much of Sub-Saharan Africa, including East Africa has had its natural forest cover stripped due to unsustainable, over reliance of wood fuel as a source of primary energy. The fact that this has contributed noticeably to climate change, mud-slides, loss of watersheds, desertification and threatened food security and agricultural productivity, troubles her. She knows that Kenya’s wood fuel supply does not match the demand. It is clear that the resource is being depleted faster than it is being replenished; an obvious indicator that wood fuel is not a sustainable source of energy. An alternative of some sort is needed! An accessible and affordable source of household primary energy is needed urgently!
Wanjiku Manyara is CEO of the PIEA and part of her job is to look at how LPG can play an important role in improving the lives of the rural community in Africa. In the past few years there has been a significant push for the substitution of biomass for LPG as a cooking fuel across the continent. She believes that there should be access to clean, modern, safe and efficient household energy like LPG.
When asked why LPG?
She says, “It is a low hanging fruit whose current supply does not meet demand, access to adequate modern and affordable energy like LPG is necessary in spurring income generating activities that will alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods.”
Wanjiku sees that East African Countries are developing at a sustained rate and each country has economic blueprints stipulating their industrialization targets. She explains that this is cause and effect for household income to improve because as they gain wealth, there will be a rise in demand for cleaner energy for lighting and cooking.
She says, “The Government has understood and appreciated that infrastructure requirements for LPG for cooking are by far less expensive than electricity.” She adds that, “All that consumers really require is the LPG cylinder and/or the LPG cylinder with accessories and the latter is optional, as some cylinder sizes come complete as one package with the cooking grill on top, hence there is no need for a regulator or a separate cooking stove.”
The smoke generated from cooking over a wood flame is extremely hazardous to one’s health and those around them. Wanjiku references a study that was carried out recently in one of Kenya’s County’s indicates that 14,300 deaths occur annually due to the adverse impacts of indoor pollution on human health.
She says that, “The Kenyan study supports the World Health Organization estimate that globally, over half a million premature deaths occur annually as a result of indoor pollution exceeding the burdens of malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined!”
According to UNF (United Nations Foundation) toxic fumes from open fires inside homes or household air pollution are responsible for more than 4.3 million deaths each year. Almost 600 thousand of these deaths occur in Africa. The WHO (World Health Organization) also reported that there are an estimated 265 thousand deaths every year caused by burns.
In Amboseli, cooking is done over three-stone firewood in houses that seldom have windows or chimneys. This type of cooking leads to a build- up of soot and smoke within the house that can be very hazardous to the occupant’s health. In an interview with The African Slum Journal, a local resident, Simon Oleskorey said that those who ended up suffering the most are the women and children. They end up developing long lasting health issues such as pneumonia and even blindness. Long term exposure to smoke is also associated with many serious health problems such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, stroke and tuberculosis.
Increasing the use of LPG for cooking in Kenya is seen as one of the best solutions to this problem of smoke related deaths in the country. LPG produces far less air pollution than kerosene, wood or any of the other traditional fuels. According to the WLPGA, LPG is the only fuel whose emissions are below the critical level of 10μg per m3 and hence the most likely to yield health benefits.
In contrast to LPG, biomass burning typically releases 19 times more emissions per meal.
“LPG is seen as having a key role in preventing the premature deaths that are attributable to adverse health impacts of household air pollution”, Wanjiku says.
Besides simply for health benefits the use of LPG also helps reduce the time needed to collect and prepare biomass fuel for cooking. Women spend a great deal of time collecting firewood and bringing it back to the home. Some actually walk up 10 km each day solely for collecting firewood. The use of LPG can drastically reduce this collection time as well as the strain that is caused by carrying such heavy loads.
Organizations such as WLPGA, PIEA and the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves have been leading the charge in getting LPG into houses where it can save and improve millions of lives. Organizations such as these allow people like Wanjiku to join forces with a large network of people working towards a common goal.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves estimates that more than 36 million Kenyans are affected by household air pollution each year. It is thought that up to 15 thousand deaths are caused by the use of solid fuels such firewood. As of 2012, Kenya had a 43,178,100 people and had an annual growth rate of 2.4%. The country has had a staggering amount of its populace living below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day of more than 43.4%. The lack of such a basic necessity is due to not only the lack of availability but also lack of funding. The millions of people using solid fuels do so simply because they have no other option. Other fuels are either not accessible or they are simply too expensive.
The PIEA has been fighting this problem for the people of Kenya with Wanjiku at the reins. The Petroleum Institute of East Africa (PIEA) is the professional body for the oil and gas industry in the East Africa Region.
Its mission is to provide a forum for expertise and excellence in the industry and promote professionalism and free enterprise, in the oil and gas business while being supported by the highest operations and business standards. In working with the government, there is now a deliberate undertaking by the Kenyan government to increase consumption of LPG which has experienced stagnated and slow growth. Wanjiku says that this is demonstrated firstly, by the proposed clear policy direction in the final draft of the National Energy & Petroleum Policy (NEPP) that aims at shifting household energy needs from unsustainable options like firewood and charcoal to cleaner, more modern options like LPG.
She adds, “A multi-sector sub- committee has already drawn up proposals and strategies to promote utilization of cleaner household fuels including LPG for implementation was constituted by the Government through the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum (MOEP).”
The MOEP has supported the PIEA case to dis-incentivize margin building via adulteration by bringing back taxes on Illuminating Kerosene (IK) to equalize with Automotive Gasoil (AGO) and balance off through the removal of tax on LPG cylinders and accessories. Additionally, the MOEP has submitted proposals to National Treasury on the utilization of the funds that will accrue from the removal of IK subsidies at approximately 12 billion Kenya Shillings (0.12 billion US$).
Wanjiku says, “These funds can now be utilized in fact tracking the capacity gap of the much needed LPG cylinders and LPG storage and distribution infrastructure at scale to facilitate sustained access of LPG by consumers.”
When asked of her experience in working together with the Government? She told us, “The Government clearly recognizes the immense potential for LPG growth in Kenya with prospective returns. This is only if there is effective compliance and enforcement that in turn gives confidence to the current legitimate players so that they can expand the LPG footprint and also encourage new investors to finance LPG projects via provision of a stable, legitimate, safe and competitive LPG business environment.”
“While working with the government on LPG matters due to the new policy and regulatory shift, the MOEP hosted a high level meeting whose main agenda was to facilitate a decision making brainstorming session on the holistic way forward and future of the LPG business in Kenya. This included exploring the LPG potential and opportunities; current challenges and proposed solutions and tools for promoting LPG consumption including the legal and regulatory framework,” she adds.
Wanjiku mentioned that following the brainstorming session a Technical Committee was constituted to review the LPG legal and regulatory framework that takes into account the proposed joint way forward by MOEP, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Industry through PIEA.
A large container truck makes it way down a dirt path and pulls up at a marketplace in Ngonga. Plastered on the sides of this truck is the PIEA logo. It signifies that an LPG roadshow is about to begin. Like a transformer, the sides of the truck come up and the inside opens out into a stage. The curious crowd gathers, slowly surrounding the truck, listening to people on microphones speaking about the benefits of LPG. The air is filled with chatter and discussion. Samples of LPG cooking stoves, cylinders, heaters and even lamps are shown to the crowd and they are made to realize how their lives can be revolutionized with this brilliant blue flame.
One of the PIEA objectives is the creation of public and consumer awareness on Environment, Health and Safety issues touching on handling and use of Petroleum products and the roadshow is one of the methods they use to do this.
Wanjiku says that currently, the PIEA has embarked on an expansive LPG consumer education and sensitization campaign which kicked off in the fourth quarter of 2014.
“The purpose of these campaigns, which include Road Shows in areas where illicit LPG trade is rife, are aimed at empowering consumers to make safe LPG purchase choices,” she adds.
PIEA LPG Roadshow
The PIEA has run other extensive LPG campaigns, even with the MOEP where both parties undertook a successful public education media to sensitize consumers on the legal and safety process of the standardized regime. It is hoped that activities like this will pave a path to a rich LPG future in the country.
When asked of the future of LPG? Wanjiku says, “The future, as far as LPG is concerned, is now.” She says that it was agreed at the MOEP, ERC, and PIEA high-level meeting on the future of LPG that the following needed to be undertaken to drive and scale up LPG consumption. The Government was also to undertake or steer an enabling environment for investors to put up LPG infrastructure to fill the import, storage and distribution capacity gap including spread out construction/ commissioning of innovative/ unconventional LPG storage and cylinder filling units that meet the requisite standards.
In addition to this the Government needs to take the relevant steps required in triggering action from Global LPG Partnership of which Kenya is a pilot Country. This facility provides opportunities including financial support for infrastructure development and innovative funding mechanism for consumers to acquire cylinders through loans while also providing an enabling environment for investors to continually inject/introduce sufficient safe cylinders.
She says, “This along with the storage and distribution infrastructure at scale will facilitate sustained access of LPG by consumers.”
She strongly believes that a legal and regulatory framework that is sufficiently enforced by an effective regulator. Effective compliance and enforcement is the bedrock for increasing the LPG footprint in any country and that LPG companies need to consider unveiling their new business ideas to ensure availability of LPG at the grass roots.
(LPG Business Review)