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Strathmore to Set Up UNESCO Chair to Address Climate Change

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has approved Strathmore University’s proposal to set up a UNESCO Chair for Climate Change Resilience and Sustainability. Slated to last five renewable years, the chair will encompass the disciplines of climate change adaptation and mitigation, access to electricity, energy efficiency, education of youth and women, and public policy.

 

Future of our planet

 

The project will be led by Professor Izael Pereira Da Silva, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Strathmore University. Prof Da Silva’s main research focus is sustainable development and energy. Having worked in this field for many years now, he believes climate change should be of paramount importance for all who are concerned with the future of the planet.

 

Speaking following the approval, Dr. Evangeline Njoka, the Secretary General of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO, said, “Climate change is an emerging issue that manifests itself in ways that affect sustainable development. It not only threatens the survival of mankind, economies, and the environment, but also compromises the ability of most countries and the global community to achieve developmental targets.”

 

Prof Ramasamy Jayakumar, Head of the Natural Sciences Sector at the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, also congratulated the university. “This is a very important milestone for Africa,” he said. “It focuses on three important interlinked Sustainable Development Goals, namely Zero Hunger, Clean Water and Sanitation, and Affordable and Clean Energy.” To achieve the overall goal of climate sustainability, he explained, it is necessary for these three sectors to be concurrently developed.

 

Weather the climate change storm

 

Through the new UNESCO chair, Prof Da Silva plans to collaborate with the government, development agencies, the private sector, and academia, to develop and disseminate transformative ideas and innovations within its subject areas. Through this work, the project will help societies weather and thrive through the negative effects of climate change.

 

The project places a special emphasis on Africa, which, though a minor contributor to global climate change, stands to suffer some of its worst effects, such as prolonged droughts and erratic floods. This imbalance calls for concerted scholarly efforts to develop strategies to mitigate these effects. Beyond clarifying and implementing existing climate-related policies, more must be done to curb the dangers of climate change while promoting resilience.

 

Through the project, Prof Da Silva also hopes to improve the understanding of ordinary people regarding climate change. Above all, he aims to inspire young people to take on the challenge of steering the future of the planet for the benefit of everyone. “I plan to train the next generation so that they can take care of our common home better than the current generation,” he says.

 

The UNESCO/ UNITWIN (University Twinning and Networking) Chairs Programme was launched in 1992 to promote international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities, through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. Currently, eight universities in Kenya have UNESCO Chairs.

 

This article was written by Namachanja Ashley Nasambu, a third year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student.

Does Kenya need Coal?

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In 2015, the Government of Kenya launched an ambitious plan to add 5,000 MW of electricity generation capacity to the grid in 40 months with the aim of improving availability of supply and thereby support economic growth. The excess electricity generation capacity was to supply flagship projects such as the electrification of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), a steel plant and Lamu port. The implementation of these projects was to lead to the industrialization of the country and transform Kenya into a middle-income economy by 2030.

 

However, in 2017, media reports indicated that the government had abandoned this plan because electricity demand did not grow at the anticipated rate. Despite indications that the 5,000 MW plan had been abandoned, plans to construct a 1000 MW coal power plant in Lamu remained. In 2017, Amu Power, an Independent Power Producer, signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Kenya Power, allowing it to supply electricity generated from coal to the Kenyan grid pending an environmental impact assessment  license and partial risk guarantees to be awarded by the government to lenders in the project.

 

Public discourse has brought to the fore numerous arguments for coal with some parties indicating that additional capacity from coal would drive industrialization, as has been witnessed in many developed countries such as the US, Germany and China in the past. This article analyses this position with the aim of determining whether additional supply from coal will actually improve industrial performance.

 

Excess electricity generated

 

Electricity is indeed a requirement for socio-economic development and industrialization. However, Kenya currently has excess electricity generation capacity and therefore does not need supply.   In 2017, in the Daily Nation, Cabinet Secretary for Energy Charles Keter indicated that the government was slowing down the implementation of the 5000 MW plan because of insufficient demand due to the counties’ failure to invest in mega-industries, which would serve to drive electricity demand. One can infer from this statement that the country has excess electricity capacity.  Further, another article published in the Daily Nation indicated that Kenya Power had indefinitely halted the signing of new power purchase agreements because of excess capacity.

 

In fact, Kenyans have been paying for unutilized supply for the past five years. An analysis of data in Kenya Power’s annual reports indicates that the reserve margin (the difference between peak demand and installed generation capacity) has ranged from 22% to 45% between 2014 and 2018. In many nations, the recommended reserve margin is 15% or even less, to allow for demand growth and maintenance of power plants. According to the government, installation of further electricity capacity at the present rate would only increase excess capacity and thereby the cost of electricity.

 

Additional electricity capacity has not served to improve the performance of the manufacturing sector. Despite the existence of excess electricity generation capacity, the Economic Survey 2019 shows that the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the gross domestic product has declined from 10% in 2014 to 7.7% in 2018. These statistics indicate that electricity capacity in Kenya is not the impediment towards productivity as commonly touted. Rather, the manufacturing sector has repeatedly indicated that high cost of electricity sometimes up to 40% of the cost of production, and unreliable supply caused by poor transmission and distribution network has hindered its growth. [2] [3].

 

Contribution to excess capacity

 

Addition of a coal plant to Kenya’s electricity generation mix will cause an increase of Kenya’s electricity cost by contributing to excess capacity. The Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP) 2017-2037, an electricity generation plan prepared by the government, indicates that a coal power plant, if constructed, would be utilized at a maximum capacity factor of 4.1% between 2024 and 2036, leading the levelized cost of electricity to peak at approximately KES 16 per kWh in 2024. The LCPDP also analyses an additional scenario, where the addition of coal power to Kenya’s electricity generation mix is delayed to 2029. In this scenario, the cost of electricity is KES 12.3 per kWh indicating that coal is not the best solution for Kenya’s electricity generation mix in the earlier periods.

 

The government should instead direct efforts to improve the transmission and distribution network, in order to increase the reliability of supply, enable a reduction in suppressed demand, and assist in the overall growth of consumption. This is a low-hanging fruit for a country that has its focus on increasing electricity demand. Affordability of electricity also needs to be a priority to enable domestic consumers enjoy the benefits of universal connectivity and allow the manufacturing sector to reduce production costs, therefore reaching the desired growth and competitiveness of the sector.

 

This article was written by Ms. Sarah Odera, Ag. Director, Strathmore Energy Research Centre and Prof. Izael Da Silva, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation. You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu.

ICRC and Strathmore University sign partnership for the creation of an energy and water knowledge hub

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The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and Strathmore University have today entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that will see the two institutions partner in training and sharing knowledge on water and energy- related subjects.

 

Training equipment and tools

 

This partnership will see Strathmore University offer physical space and technical learning capacities to ICRC’s team of engineers, staff, and other humanitarian partners, particularly in the field of renewable energy to enable sustainable power and water supply. The ICRC will in turn equip the University’s laboratories with customized training equipment and tools to the tune of 100,000 USD to be used by students taking these courses. The partnership comes in recognition of Strathmore’s knowledge and expertise in this field under its School of Computing and Engineering Sciences and its already well-established Energy Research Center. The new collaboration is intended to strengthen ICRC’s years of working to secure better living conditions, delivery of health services and livelihood initiatives, which include providing access to essential services as water and power supply for thousands of people affected by conflict around the world.

 

Increase access to energy and water

 

ICRC’s Head of Regional Delegation Olivier Dubois noted that, “the number of energy projects implemented as part of our operational responses has increased tremendously over the years and is expected to further accelerate in the context of global transition to renewable energy resources. Our team of specialists, specifically the Water and Habitat engineers, will benefit from this partnership which will see them consolidate their competence in this area as we seek to increase the use of renewable sources of energy in our operations and in our premises,” he said.

 

Prof. Izael Da Silva, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation at Strathmore University added, “this training program will contribute to global efforts in increasing access to modern energy and water. Conflict areas have previously been neglected in such initiatives. Strathmore University is therefore delighted to partner with ICRC in this endeavour”.

 

By establishing the Energy and Water Knowledge Hub with Strathmore University, ICRC will create training services for ICRC staff and operational partners from all over Africa and beyond.  The developed courses will also be made available on the market to other individuals and humanitarian agencies in need to scale up their technical competencies in this field.

 

The article was written by Ms. Anne Njeri, the Communications Officer at Strathmore Energy Research Centre.

You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu.

Managing stress is within our power

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The Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015 – 2030 estimates that up to 25% of outpatients and up to 40% of in-patients in health facilities suffer from mental conditions. The most frequent diagnosis of mental illnesses made in general hospital settings are stress, depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. At the community level, we continue to note an increase of violent acts during the ongoing pandemic. Strathmore Energy Research Centre realizes the importance of mental health and included it in its just concluded online women’s training on stand-alone solar systems. The customized training that began on 19th April 2021 was geared towards 16 sales personnel working at BBOX in Bulama, Kakamega, Kapsabet, Katito, Kendu Bay, Kitale, Luanda, Machakos, Nyamira, Oyugis and Voi.

 

Identifying causes of distress and eustress

 

The first step in the process of stress management is to identify our personal sources of stress. One of the lady participants spoke on the stress she faces while she prepares for a solar home system installation. Successfully finding a client is a win for any salesperson. However, after winning the client, the next step is ensuring the installation process is executed well leading to eustress: positive stress that pushes us to want to ensure an installation is done perfectly for customer satisfaction.

 

Distress, on the other hand, is experienced in the workplace when a fellow colleague undercut another. A good example of this was given by Katalina* when she explained for us a living scenario which we all can relate with. A salesperson can spend weeks negotiating with a client and assume that a deal is sealed.  On the expected day, the client finally comes to the office; unfortunately, in her absence her colleague closed the deal and received the commission Katalina* had assumed was hers.

 

So how do we manage these types of stress?

 

Understanding what is in one’s control

 

As a professional, identifying what is in your control is key. Is your career bringing you stress? If it is, maybe it is time to re-read your Terms of Reference (TOR) and understand what your responsibilities are. Thereafter, align your work goals and implementation strategy to match your terms of reference. Yes, in every TOR there is a statement at the bottom that reads “any other duties”, but if any other duties are executed more than your actual terms, this could lead to stress, then undue fatigue, leading to depression, then burn-out and finally a breakdown which can take years to reverse.

 

Reframing Technique

 

One of the keyways to manage some of the stresses discussed above is through reframing our minds. This could include taking time to understand our strengths and opportunities and minimizing our weaknesses and threats. Find innovative and creative ways of executing your daily tasks within your already God-given strengths. Look for opportunities that can allow you to learn the new trends in your area for opportunities come to those who look for them.

 

The above are few approaches that can help you begin to manage your stress effectively. Tackling one stress point at a time is ideal to ensure you do not overwhelm yourself and quit the process midway. Visiting a certified counselling psychologist is also a good place to begin the process on stress management. Stress management is possible and within our power.

 

Take back control of your mental health today!

 

*Not her real name

 

This project is funded by KawiSafi and is led by Ms. Anne Wacera Wambugu. The article was written by Ms. Anne Njeri, the Communications Officer at Strathmore Energy Research Centre. You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu.

Strathmore Energy Research Centre longlisted for prestigious Ashden Award

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Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) has been longlisted for a prestigious Ashden award. Ashden, a UK- based charity, has been supporting transformative climate solutions for 20 years. More than 800 organisations applied for the 2021 Ashden Awards, and SERC is one of 38 to have made it to the longlisting stage. Award winners will be announced this Autumn – after a rigorous assessment and judging process involving on-the-ground visits and input from sector experts.

 

SERC is an applied technology lab within Strathmore University that has curved a niche in training and capacity building on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our programmes aim to equip our training participants with the required skills to design, install and effectively maintain modern energy systems. SERC is bridging the existing skills gap in the renewable energy sector by providing practical oriented, hands-on training courses across Sub Saharan Africa. To date, more than 3,000 technicians have been trained in our programmes.

 

Our training initiatives have upskilled technicians in various Sub-Saharan countries such as Somalia, Somali land, Kenya, and Tanzania in addition to pioneering solar PV training in countries such as Mali and South Sudan. Our training model which includes Training of Trainer (ToT) sessions conducted in various countries have seen the trained participants institutionalize solar PV training in their institutions.

 

“I have seen a practical solar energy system in Strathmore University that feeds into the grid. That was new for me,” said Eng. Urbanus Melkior, a lecturer at Arusha Technical College Solar Training Center during a training conducted at SERC. “I also learnt that in Kenya there is a solar regulatory body and an approved curriculum and certification for solar workers. Upon our return, we will endeavor to work with our government to encourage more solar use in Tanzania,” added Eng. Urbanus.

 

One notable milestone in the past 12 months is the introduction of an online training platform following the onset of the COVID – 19 pandemic which interrupted physical learning activities. The online platform has enabled SERC to widen its reach for participants who were limited by distance. We also look forward to partnering with other institutions who offer online training in renewable energy to reach more participants at subsidized costs, especially for women in the sector who rarely attend training due to the high costs.

 

“In the year that governments, climate innovators and activists gather at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow, these inspiring climate champions demonstrate the many solutions that can be replicated at scale and speed,” said Ashden’s Chief Executive Officer, Harriet Lamb.

 

Through its awards and ongoing networking and support, Ashden spotlights and supports climate and energy innovators around the world – including businesses, non-profits and public sector organisations delivering proven, ready-to-scale climate solutions.

 

Concluding his remarks on this milestone, Prof. Izael Da Silva (Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation at Strathmore University) noted, “Our training initiatives in the renewable energy sector have narrowed the skill gap both in Kenya and in Sub Saharan Africa. The skills in which our learners gain, enable them to unlock and create opportunities in sustainable development as well as harness the limitless benefits of the renewable energy evolution.”

 

About Strathmore University

 

Strathmore seeks to become a leading outcome-driven entrepreneurial research university by translating our excellence into a major contribution to culture, economic well-being, and quality of life. Strathmore aims at providing all-round quality education in an atmosphere of freedom and responsibility excellence in teaching, research and scholarship, ethical and social development, and service to the society. www.strathmore.edu

 

About Ashden: Ashden’s mission is to accelerate transformative climate solutions and build a more just world. Through awards and programmes, Ashden promotes and supports climate and energy innovators – including businesses, non-profits, and public sector organisations. Find out more at https://www.ashden.org/.

 

Contacts:

 

Name: Anne Njeri Njoroge

Contact: +254704240797

Email: anjoroge@strathmore.edu

 

Ashden

Name: Sue Wheat

Contact: +44 (0)7950 953004

Email:sue.wheat@ashden.org

Electric Appliance Quality in Kenya

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When buying products online, most of us depend on our own knowledge of the product and related specifications, and product reviews in a site’s comment section or on review sites.  In the event of false advertising, we rely on there being return policies though most of the time, electrical appliances perform as expected. This is particularly true for branded products sold through reputable merchants.  However, there is a global industry of poor quality and counterfeit products that do not perform as expected and this can be a problem in the less regulated markets. So, what might a Kenyan consumer find in the market and how can the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme anticipate and enable a quality ecosystem?

 

For instance, if a product is purchased using drop shipping merchants, returning it might not be an available alternative meaning that a consumer might need to “count their losses”. Consumers of electrical appliances in Kenya frequently find themselves in this situation even when the store they purchased the appliance from is accessible and known to them. A general lack of accountability by the traders, due to limited enforcement capacity by regulators, leaves consumers counting losses. Given the limited purchasing power of many consumers in Kenya, what is a small inconvenience to someone who has lucked out of a good drop shipping purchase, might be a huge financial loss and a missed opportunity to own a much-needed appliance.

 

Data and information on the electric appliance quality situation in Kenya are limited and have rarely been investigated beyond counterfeiting, an aspect of quality which fails to encompass the entire issue. To mitigate against and prevent unwanted eventualities where possible, MECS is collaborating with Strathmore University to develop an outlook of the electric cooking quality ecosystem. The program is looking to increase the adoption of electric cooking appliances in Kenya and other Sub-Saharan African countries and quality control is a crucial element of appliance uptake. My team and I are therefore mapping the electric appliance quality ecosystem and identifying issues that impact the sector, including parallels in other countries which can help contextualize the Kenyan situation.

 

The transition to modern energy cooking services is expected to result in substantive adoption of electric cooking appliances in Sub-Saharan African countries such as Kenya. This anticipated adoption in Kenya follows the Last Mile Connectivity Project (LMCP) which increased electricity connectivity in rural areas, where biomass is still used as a cooking fuel. This increase in electrification rate, coupled with MECS activities, is expected to result in the increased adoption of electric cooking appliances, especially electric pressure cookers, in the country.  As adoption increases, it is important to ensure and assure the safety of users to mitigate against injuries or financial losses that might result from poor quality purchases. To keep adoption momentum and protect consumers, manufacturers also need to be aware of quality as it relates to consumers, a similar but distinct theme from quality as it relates to laboratory testing and quality standards compliance.

 

Electric cooking appliances such as electric pressure cookers are relatively new to the Kenyan market, and hence have less developed supply chains with respect to reach into rural communities. Therefore, the team is investigating supply chains of electric appliances (referred to as “appliances” from here onward), to study the probable outlook of the electric cooking quality ecosystem. During the literature review stage, the team classified the appliance supply chain into two categories. There are appliances supplied through Luthuli, Nyamakima and River Road (supply chain A) and those supplied by authorized distributors of “known brand names” (supply chain B). Supply chain A sells unbranded appliances, self-branded appliances and appliances found in supply chain B.  On the other hand, supply chain B sells appliances from “known brand name” manufacturers with authorized distributors who are sometimes allowed to repair on behalf of the manufacturer.

 

In urban areas, only electric shops in locations such as Luthuli, Nyamakima and River Road sell supply chain A (SCA) appliances while the same shops, supermarkets and authorized distributors sell supply chain B (SCB) appliances. In rural areas, SCB appliances are prevalent, and are sold through rural electric shops while SCA appliances are mostly found in supermarkets. This distinction of “who sells what” is important because while quality issues might arise from both SCA and SCB, these issues are more likely to be addressed when appliances are purchased through SCB. This is because SCB sellers tend to have a warranty process in place and service centres where an individual can secure appliance repair services after the warranty period has expired. We remain unsure whether appliances sold through SCA attract similar warranty protections or can be taken to the service centre after the warranty period has expired.

 

A major challenge with SCB appliances is the lack of consumer awareness regarding warranty since some consumers might not be accustomed to the concept of warranty thus might not seek it. Other consumers might not be aware of warranty terms and might throw away receipts upon unboxing, voiding their warranty claim. The second challenge is the lack of availability of service centres, especially for rural consumers who sometimes have to travel to the nearest town to repair their appliance. Even in cases where repair centres are available, some manufacturers set the repair price high to increase the likelihood of the consumer purchasing a new appliance, instead of opting for repair.

 

The third and most relevant challenge for electric cooking, especially pressure cookers is the lack of replacement parts for easily removable parts at the point of sale. For example, the float valve and its silicone cap for electric pressure cookers are removable and very small. The float valve degrades over time thus it is understandable that the manufacturer opted to make it easily removable. However, the only manufacturer’s instructions for consumers who have purchased the appliance worth £140 is to “put the silicone cap and the float valve in a safe place to avoid losing them”. There is no information on what to do in case you lose the silicone cap and/or the float valve, nor on what to do when the sealing ring ages. Such an appliance is considered expensive in Kenya and parts should be made available for replacement in the box at the point of sale.

 

As for SCA, the major challenge is that some shops sell counterfeits of SCB appliances and poor quality (non-counterfeit) appliances sourced from factories selling unbranded products. These factories selling unbranded products are similar to the ones used in the dropshipping trend where appliances can be branded on request by the seller or bought without a label.  Similar to SCB appliances, counterfeit and poor quality SCA appliances have to produce a certificate of conformance at the port of entry thus there is a need to find out where lapses occur, enabling the entry into the country. Of note is that our project focuses on quality rather than counterfeiting since there are some non-counterfeits products of poor quality, an issue that is of great concern for electric cooking appliances.  The link between counterfeits and quality has also been explored extensively by manufacturers in Kenya.

 

Parallels to both systems can be found in ecommerce where assuring the quality and safety of appliances has become challenging for regulators given the scale of imports. For most of the sites, consumers source of information through recommendations by other users (social reviews) and by reading reviews on the ecommerce sites and/or consumer review sites. Most Kenyan consumers only depend on social reviews and there is a lack of reliable review sites that are accessible to majority of Kenyans, though it is important to note that site reviews can be corrupted. Therefore, there are still more questions to be answered with respect to the operations of SCA and SCB, including how consumers get information on appliances to purchase. The next phase of the project will seek to explore consumer dynamics and other issues such as importation gaps that enable the entry of poor-quality goods.

 

This project is funded by the Modern Energy Cooking Services is led by Ms Anne Wacera Wambugu.

 

The article was written by  Ms Anne Wacera Wambugu. You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu.

 

This article was first published on Modern Energy Cooking Services website.