International Glance: Kenya Switching to Propane

A worker unloading LPG cylinders in Tirupur, India. (image: M. Balaji/hindu.com)

In an eco-conscious effort to use cleaner fuels, the Kenyan government announced plans to triple the country’s LPG usage by 2012, according to a recent report from Capital Business. Kenya currently consumes around 8,000 tons of LPG every month, and will need to increase storage facility capacities, distribution, and infrastructure to meet this goal.

“This is a huge leap and it means that we need to act very fast on improving the infrastructure and also sensitize our people on why they need to switch from kerosene and biomass to LPG use,” said Martin Heya, Commisioner for Petroleum Energy.

Until the initiative began, Kenya’s limited storage space had driven up the price of LPG, or “cooking gas” as it’s more commonly called there. As a result, low-income Kenyans turned to kerosene and wood, which has lead to an alarming spike in deforestation and respiratory disease from particulate emissions. In the search for a solution, LPG surfaced as the most economical and clean alternative.

Leaders from Uganda and Tanzania are pushing for similar changes, and are exploring ways to make LPG more accessible again.

“If we have to talk about developing our economies, we have to give special focus to the rural poor and so the issues of access in terms of affordability, and user equipment have to be addressed,” said Irene Muloni, Uganda’s Energy Minister.

Members of the East African Community (EAC) vowed to discuss the issue at the next Sectoral Council meeting in September. It’s likely they’ll use Indonesia as a model for the initiative – by making small propane cylinders available and affordable for low-income families, 254 million Indonesian households switched from kerosene to “cooking gas” in just three years.