Leadership, News

On Clean Energy, We Can Do Like the Romans Do

In the old days, one of the proud­est state­ments in the whole world was ‘civis Romanus sum’, Latin for ‘I am a Roman Cit­i­zen.  Backed by the majesty of the great Roman Empire, that phrase gave one free pas­sage across Europe. Now, this past week, I saw the lega­cy of that proud her­itage while on a busi­ness trip in Rome, fond­ly referred to as the eter­nal city. I appre­ci­at­ed that indeed great lead­ers trans­form lives by mar­shal­ing resources towards their peo­ple, not away from them, and that great economies are built on years of relent­less deter­mi­na­tion to do the right thing. 

As a great advo­cate of clean ener­gy, I mar­velled at the pow­er of inten­tion­al leg­is­la­tion and sys­tems in Rome, to pro­mote the devel­op­ment of elec­tric cars, which are now the norm, not the excep­tion. Italy is the fourth largest auto mar­ket in Europe after Ger­many, Unit­ed King­dom and France  and we can learn from their expe­ri­ence in the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of their mobil­i­ty infrastructure.

Sam­ple this, in less than forty min­utes you can ful­ly charge a basic elec­tric car. That will cost you less than Shs 200 in elec­tric­i­ty con­sump­tion. With a full charge, you can trav­el for about 150 kilo­me­ters with­out need­ing to recharge. This means that if you live in Burubu­ru and work in West­lands, both in Nairo­bi, one full charge can take you for an entire week. Mean­while, your neigh­bor using a con­ven­tion­al vehi­cle will spend approx­i­mate­ly Shs3,000 and pol­lute the envi­ron­ment 100% more than you. 


If 10,000 elec­tric vehi­cles can replace 10,000 oil-pow­ered vehi­cles in Nairo­bi, the eco­nom­ic and envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits will be immense. For starters, 10,000 Nairo­bi res­i­dents will save at least Shs30 mil­lion every week. This means that every week, Shs30 mil­lion will be chan­neled away from the pur­chase of import­ed fuel into the local econ­o­my. In addi­tion, local man­u­fac­ture and sale of those elec­tric cars will great­ly boost the economy. 


Apart from revamp­ing our econ­o­my, 10,000 elec­tric cars will also result in a bet­ter envi­ron­ment. A com­mon vehi­cle of about 1300cc emits approx­i­mate­ly 4.6 met­ric tons of car­bon diox­ide each year. Imag­ine what remov­ing 10,000 such vehi­cles from our roads will do for our atmos­phere! To tan­gi­bly achieve such desired goals, we def­i­nite­ly need deci­sive lead­er­ship, inten­tion­al leg­is­la­tion and sys­tems, entre­pre­neur­ial assertive­ness, and pub­lic demand to meet our oblig­a­tions under the Paris Agree­ment on Cli­mate  Change, known as Nation­al­ly Deter­mined Con­tri­bu­tions (NDCs).


As I inter­act­ed with elec­tric vehi­cle com­pa­ny mak­ers, I learned from a Dutch con­sult­ing firm known as Arcadis that gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship is at the heart of this upsurge of elec­tric vehi­cles in Italy and sev­er­al oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries. Such gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship has result­ed in reg­u­la­to­ry sup­port, future bans on inter­nal com­bus­tion engines, and net-zero dec­la­ra­tions as part of their NDC’s.


Con­sid­er­ing that Kenya’s uptake of elec­tric vehi­cles is quite dis­mal, we need a lot more gov­ern­ment sup­port not just leg­isla­tive­ly but also finan­cial­ly. Although some gov­ern­ment poli­cies are seek­ing to achieve this, they still fall short. 


With inten­tion­al leg­is­la­tion and sys­tems, mul­ti­plied invest­ment, and increased demand, we shall be able to fol­low in the foot­steps of car firms like Dacia. This Roman­ian car man­u­fac­tur­er start­ed sell­ing elec­tric cars in Italy just a few months ago in June. So far, they have already sold 2,500 cars. Mean­while, there is a tiny num­ber of about 200 elec­tric cars in Kenya. There is yet no active nation­al con­ver­sa­tion on this inevitable route the auto-indus­try must take. I am con­vinced as the coun­try that hosts the world’s pre­mier envi­ron­men­tal insti­tu­tion, UNEP, we can lead the way. After all, we have already proved our met­tle in oth­er forms of clean ener­gy such as our glob­al­ly acclaimed invest­ment in geot­her­mal pow­er and the recent devel­op­ments in the wind ener­gy space. 


We can do all this through inten­tion­al leg­is­la­tion and sys­tems that pri­or­i­tize job cre­ation and eco­nom­ic gain. We can make Kenya a bas­ket case like some of our neigh­bors or make it sta­ble and proud like Rome of old. Think green Act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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