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July 20, 2018

Solar firms make hay while the sun shines

A beneficiary of the Last Mile connectivity Project puts on power in her house as the Former cabinet secretary for Energy and Petroleum Charles Keter and Kandara MP Alice Wahome (left) watch on August 1,2016
A beneficiary of the Last Mile connectivity Project puts on power in her house as the Former cabinet secretary for Energy and Petroleum Charles Keter and Kandara MP Alice Wahome (left) watch on August 1,2016

Kenya’s appetite for cheap and clean energy has made solar power firms intensify their scramble to light up rural and low-income areas.

This follows under-performance by Kenya Power in its the multibillion-shilling last mile connectivity project that aimed to supply power to 70 per cent of Kenyan households by 2017.

However, an Infotrak survey reveals only 57.2 per cent of households are connected to the grid.

The Infotrak survey found the majority of low income households with total monthly earnings of Sh10,000 and below are unlikely to be connected to electricity than those who earn more.

To be connected to the grid, households need to contribute a total of Sh15,000 and live at least 600 metres from a power transformer.

Unlike Kenya Power, the solar firms are enticing consumers with a pay-as-you-go model with daily payments as low as Sh49 through mobile money.

 

FILLING THE GAP

According to Kenya Power, at least 1.3 million households mostly in the 14 underserved counties are located beyond the reach of the national grid and the existing mini-grids.

This gap has led to foreign-funded solar power firms M-Kopa and Azuri technologies to secure commercial debt funding to provide electricity to the remote households.

Kenya Power has initiated the Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project to increase access to energy services in Garissa, Isiolo, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Mandera and Marsabit.

Other counties targeted are Narok, Samburu, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir, and West Pokot.

The projects team leader, Simon Kamau said they are considering use of solar powered mini grids and standalone systems in areas where grid penetration remains limited. The initial phase of the project will be financed by the World Bank to the tune of Sh 16 billion.

Kamau said private firms procured through international competitive bidding will be tasked to carry out supply and construction of the generation system as well as design, construct and maintain the distribution system.

 

MOBILE MONEY

Azuri intends to take a commercial debt financing of Sh2 billion to connect an additional 150,000 households to solar power in the next three years. Kenya will receive Sh400 million while the balance will be used in 11 other countries it has a presence in.

Azuri Technologies East Africa General manager Snehar Shah said Kenya has a big market for solar powered products due to availability of sun around the year and high penetration of mobile money use.

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