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Empowered to Empower My Community in Homabay

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51-year-old Dorothy Awuor heads Nyalore Impact, a social enterprise in Homabay County. The company manufactures brickets, sells clean cookstoves, electric pressure cookers and partners with producers of bioethanol technologies and solar products. I had a chance to catch up with her on her last day of training to hear some of her experiences while at training and how she will use the knowledge gained.

 

 Dorothy, why did you register for the Women in the Forefront Technical Programme?

My company sells solar products, and I began encountering challenges as I had very little information beyond selling them. We began receiving several complaints to which I did not have the basic knowledge to respond, and this began tarnishing our name. I chose to pull back from selling solar products for a while as I strategized. Shortly after, I saw this course online. I did not meet the criteria as I have a diploma in Business, but I needed the knowledge to understand how to empower my team of fifteen staff on solar systems, so I applied.

 

Did the training on standalone solar systems meet your objectives?

When we sell cooking stoves and brickets, we educate the community on the impact firewood and the three stone cookstoves have on the environment and their health and why clean cooking using brickets or electric pressure cookers for those with access to electricity is important. This ensures clients not only buy the product but use it.

 

Prior to this training, I did not have the knowledge of how to educate the end-user after selling the stand-alone solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. I did not know that different stand-alone solar PV systems can only use a certain number of electric loads from television sets, fridges, and lights, just to mention a few. I always told clients that they could add loads as they wish without taking into consideration their energy demand versus the solar PV system they can purchase.

 

Now I have learned the importance of calculating the energy demands, checking the watts, voltage, and peak sunshine hours in the county before deploying a system. Also, I did not know that tilting of panels, cleaning, and shading is important.

 

What’s next after the training?

As a team lead, I am clearer on what type of skill set I need in the team. I can also supervise more efficiently and ensure I educate and protect my customers. Many people in the rural community assume that solar is only for lighting, but there is much more that they can use solar for and there is demand beyond lighting. This is a niche area and having a certificate of participation from Strathmore University is a milestone. I have my path carved out. I have both the knowledge and the networks.

 

To young entrepreneurs

No one is limited. It is an individual who limits themselves. If you have an interest, you can learn, read, and understand how to install solar systems. The more you practice, the more you will learn and master. Never be afraid to try something in which you are not educated. We need to be brave, determined and go out and try new things. The rural community is yearning for people who can help them with solar solutions.

 

Secondly, dreams can also come true in the county. The knowledge of young people in the city is needed in the rural areas. Also, if you are a budding entrepreneur, ensure you mix up the team. You need the youthful talent and knowledge, but also the wisdom, direction, and mentoring from your seniors to show you the ropes so that you manoeuvre faster than they did.

 

As I end the interview, I leave Dorothy feeling not only refreshed but open to what opportunities might lie beyond my Nairobi boundaries. But for you my readers… Tafakari!

 

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

 

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via communications@strathmore.edu.

“Madam Boss” – a fallacy title that opened the eyes of Sally Musonye

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In 2016, Sally had just completed a graduate program with Mabati Rollings and had moved to the areas sales department, when she spotted a job advert with the then KPLC now Kenya Power. When she saw the advert, she was away in Kabarnet selling iron sheets and she requested her mother to make a written application and drop it at Stima Plaza on her behalf. She passed the interview and relocated to Kitui county where she currently works as a design and construction engineer.

 

Having been born and raised in the city, Sally did not want to move to Kitui but as she reflects six years down the line, she reckons it was a blessing in disguise. When she arrived in Kitui, it was a small county and devolution was still finding its roots. Prison Break, a series she had long forgotten, was currently the hit. She quickly became comfortable leading a team and was managing a large financial budget. Her co-workers addressed her as “Madam Boss”, “Engineer” and like anyone, she enjoyed her newfound status.

 

Two years later, upon returning to Nairobi for training, she met her age mates who were several steps ahead. They had completed their Master’s degree or bagged a few professional development courses, or both. It was then that she opened her eyes and realized the importance of proactively engaging in professional and personal development and that her county titles were but a fallacy.

 

She quickly renewed her membership with IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology which had lapsed after her graduation. She then began volunteering regularly. Whenever she found an opportunity, she would hop on public transport at 5 am and be in Nairobi by 8 am to attend a workshop, a networking dinner, or organize an expo. She fondly remembers a week when she came to a university in Nairobi, to set up a two-day workshop for future engineers to assist their transition to the workplace with ease.

 

T1/T2/T3 Grid Tie and Energy Management Training

Sally then rekindled her passion for renewable energy and when she spotted the Women at the Forefront training program funded by Sustainable Energy for All, she jumped at the opportunity. During her leave from work, she took the opportunity to attend the training which she in her own words says, “surpassed her expectations.” Previously, she was not able to attend the training as it was in person. However, since 2020 Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) has been offering the courses online which gave her an opportunity to participate. Further, the subsidized rate was good for her pocket as an in-person training also included costs for accommodation for the duration of the training.

 

Secondly, when she registered for the online classes, Sally expected to receive notes and read on her own, but to her surprise, the trainers walked with them step by step through technical designing, planning, and cost calculations for large PV and hybrid systems. The trainer also availed sample questions and where there were inaccuracies in their calculations, they were guided. Further, she had expected a plug-and-play system with a battery and a solar panel, but that was not the case. She got an opportunity to learn about various inverters and grid-tie systems that will assist her with handling future projects in the county. She also came for an in-person practical training where she was able to put the theory into practice and meet other women in her field.

 

What’s next for Sally?

This training will assist her achieve one of her dreams, to become a T3 licensed solar technician by the end of 2021. Sally is also exploring how to become a registered engineer. She believes that the training she received at SERC also builds up to the current model being adopted by Kenya Power on ensuring universal access through the Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP). Electricity is expensive and not all in Kitui will afford electricity, but renewable energy will allow them access to energy.

 

She also just completed the grid design for the Kitui hospital which was upgraded to level five. During the training, several questions crossed her mind on how she could include an interlink between the on-grid and off-grid.

 

Being at the county also allows Sally to have a lot of free time in the evenings and the weekend and it is during this time that she hopes to explore areas that Kenya Power can tap into renewable energy in the county.

 

To the aspiring engineers at Strathmore University

When I was in University, I did not have as many opportunities as I see here. At Strathmore, budding engineers have exposure, tutors, curriculum, and a well-equipped lab. They also have access to the Energy Research Center which allows them to be forward-looking and align themselves to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. They should therefore not limit themselves to classwork, the hostel, or home. Instead, tag along with the faculty and be part of their projects. Explore the Energy Research Centre which is a stone’s throw away from the engineering lab. This will ensure you can link your class experience to the industry experience and trust me, you will be a million steps ahead of many.

 

Sally Musonye leaves me inspired and as she walks away, she says two very eye-opening statements. If you get an opportunity to work in the county, do not go and compete with the locals and open the next butchery or salon. Rather, guide the locals on how they can tap into professionalizing their area. Do not compete with them, rather become a compliment. Also, next time you take leave, don’t spend it sleeping. Read and develop yourself.

Tafakari!

 

This project is funded by Sustainable Energy for All and is led by Ms. Anne Wacera Wambugu.

 

The article was written by Ms. Anne Njeri, Communications Officer at Strathmore Energy Research Centre. You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu for further information.

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in the Energy Sector

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Gender, as defined by Dr. Kuthea Nguti, the Academic Director for ‘We Create’, an entrepreneurship training programme for needy youth in Kenya and a faculty member in the Strathmore University Business School, refers to the roles and behaviours or societies or groups assigned to or expected of women or men. Gender roles, she continues, are patterns where women have one set of roles and responsibilities, and men have another regardless of their skills and interests. These were part of the opening remarks by Dr. Nguti during an online training on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in the Energy Sector held on 26th August 2021. The training, supported by UKPACT, will  enable the project team apply GESI perspective in the development of the Narok County Energy Plan.

 

Our cultural beliefs

Due to our upbringing, each one of us naturally possesses certain beliefs. Culturally, taking the Kenyan context, women were assigned roles of household chores while carrying of loads, performing mechanical jobs, and providing for the family were assigned to men. Naturally this extended to how they evolved into their careers as women were expected to do lighter jobs. In the Greek culture, Dimitris Mentris, Senior Energy Geographer, Energy Access and Project Lead, Energy Access Explorer at World Resources Institute, remembers being taught that men should be strong, make decisions, be highly technically trained, and never cry. Indeed, our cultural beliefs play a big role in how we view gender.

 

Unlearning our gender beliefs

Gender equality therefore refers to equality under the law, equality of opportunity which includes rewards for work, equality of access to human capital and other productive resources and equality of voice that allows one the ability to influence and contribute to the development process. Further, social inclusion refers to equal access to resources and influence for all people, regardless of sex, disability, economic status, ethnicity religion or language.

 

The training unpacked practical ways we can unlearn our gender beliefs and integrate gender into energy operations using a four-step plan that included a gender assessment, a gender action plan, implementation and monitoring, and finally completion and evaluation. The gender assessment should include the how. Here one uses the already existing literature to understand the current situation in the context they will be collecting data. For example, one can use gender briefing notes on the energy sector. Secondly, one needs to develop a gender action plan aligned to the national gender action plan. The gender assessment should assist the team develop a project design. Thirdly, strengthen the project’s implementation and monitoring plan. One way to do this is through capacity building for gender focal points. Finally, provide a report which includes an analysis of the gender-related impacts and outcomes.

 

This training will assist the different partners collaboratively work with the Narok County government to develop a data-driven energy plan to increase access to clean energy which is linked to Sustainable Development Goal 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. The project team are now better equipped in applying the GESI lens in the Narok County Plan project and other energy projects including development and application of research tools as well as reporting.

 

This project is funded by UKPACT and is led by Sarah Odera.

 

The article was written by Ms. Anne Njeri the Communications Officer at Strathmore Energy Research Centre. You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu for further information.

Green Jobs Creation in Kenya

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Globally the population continues to grow at 1% while in Africa it is estimated that by 2050 the population will double. Further, half of the population in Africa is below 25 years and are at the onset of their careers. Africa is also one of the top ten fastest growing economies with East Africa growing at 5% annually. The implication of this is rapid urbanization leading to higher demands in all sectors. It is thus important for Kenya to link job creation, decent work and the green economy that is emerging and creating green jobs.

 

Green jobs as defined by the International Labour Organisation are decent jobs in any economic sector which contribute to preserving, restoring, and enhancing environmental quality by improving energy, raw materials, and water efficiency. This type of job should increase efficient consumption of energy and raw materials; it limits greenhouse gas emissions, minimizes waste and contamination; protects and restores ecosystems; and contributes to adaptation to climate change.

 

The current situation in Kenya

Prof. Izael Da Silva, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, and Innovation at Strathmore University, reminded us during a webinar held on 28 th July, 2020, that the world is currently in transition in decarbonization, decentralization of energy systems and digitalization of skills. As a nation, Kenya intends to have a green, circular and bio economy by 2030. Therefore, we need to prepare to thrive in this emerging green economy otherwise a crisis is looming if we transition with a minimal workforce. He went on to give the example of Brazil and how they strategically prepared for agri-business, aeronautical engineering and petroleum exploration in the 70’s. Today, Brazil is at the top in agri-business.

 

At Strathmore University, we are looking ahead at the needs of the future. We recently began two new programmes: A Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and a Master of Science in Sustainable Energy Transitions. “We intend to ensure that these courses are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals so that they are ready for the future. As a country, we need to train people at all levels and make them tech savvy so that they can solve future problems,” Prof. Da Silva concluded.

 

The link between green jobs and decent work

Unfortunately, great training does not always equate a decent job. It is therefore paramount that from the onset decency of work is not forgotten which is the norm in emerging areas. A decent job as defined by ILO pays fair income, guarantees a secure form of employment, a safe working environment and ensures equal opportunities including social protection and freedom of workers to express themselves. An ongoing research by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reveals that the overall effects of renewable energy transitions on creating employment and developing the economy while supporting vulnerable groups are positive, noted Dr. Ulrike Ler, the Head of Socioeconomics at the International
Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). However, we need to ensure we maintain high working standards, otherwise the advanced technology will upset both the workforce and the financiers which will affect in the long run staff motivation and funding, she added. Dr. Urlike Ler advises that a company’s renewable energy policy should include decent work. When you handle projects and partnerships, this policy will ensure that those involved are not exploited.

 

The gap in technology transfer

Other than ensuring decency of work, technology transfer is a key component in green job creation. By adapting the best technologies around the world, we shall be able to create more green jobs in Africa. One way of looking at technology transfer is to have people in the country with the skills to be able to work on equipment, technology, and plants that support the green economy and that they can install, use, maintain, repair and re-cycle. Sadly, this is not the case.

 

Dr. Francis Kangure, Institutional Performance, Improvement Unit, RTI International spoke of his experience in the renewable energy industry over the past 10 years. He has seen organisations import equipment, fly in experts to train users on the equipment and assume that technology transfer has taken place. When the technology breaks down, the experts are then flown back in to repair. This leads our engineers to become users or installers because they cannot repair or re-use or produce. This is the gap. As partners in the sector, we need to adopt a different strategy. A complete technology transfer involves training to use, to repair, to produce, to recycle and to modify.

 

The webinar, which was moderated by Ms. Sarah Odera, Ag. Director, Strathmore Energy Research Centre, brought to the forefront areas that need to be tackled to ensure that Kenya is not only a green, circular and a bio economy by 2030 but that all involved in the emerging area have decent jobs with sustainable skills.

 

To listen more on this insightful webinar and tap into the future possibilities, click this link.

 

This article was written by Anne Njeri Njoroge.

Strathmore’s new Masters programme, MSc. in Sustainable Energy Transitions set to transform Energy Sector

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Keynote Speaker, Eng. Naresh Mehta, Managing Director of Prisma Technics Ltd. officiated the launch of the new MSc. in Sustainable Energy Transitions

 

Students pursuing higher education are set to benefit from Strathmore University’s new programme, Master of Science in Sustainable Energy Transitions, that was launched on Friday, 6th August 2021. The Master of Science in Sustainable Energy Transitions (MSc. SET) programme is designed to meet the skills needed by practitioners and policymakers as they embark on initiatives for creating access to clean, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy in Africa. The multi-disciplinary Masters programme will enable students with Engineering, Computer Science, Information Technology, Environmental Science and graduates in science related disciplines to gain a detailed and multi-faceted understanding of the energy ecosystem in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) while developing specialist skills that will enable them to positively contribute to the energy sector.

 

Speaking during the event, Dr. Vincent Ogutu, the Vice Chancellor Designate noted, “Access to affordable and reliable energy is a requirement for socio-economic development. Countries like Kenya report that households particularly in the rural areas are unable to pay for the cost of grid connection despite heavy subsidies received through initiatives like the Last Mile Connectivity Project. This is just one among many other challenges which require a multi-disciplinary approach to solutions, that considers technologies, policy, regulations, entrepreneurship, markets and economics.”

 

While admitting that the programme has come at an opportune time, Dr. Ogutu added that the course is a milestone in the trajectory of Strathmore University, “As we continue to shape global professions for the future by introducing market-oriented courses, more so in a continent that has many pressing development needs that require skilled, innovative and ethical professionals who will greatly contribute to creating a sustainable ecosystem.” Since its inception, the University has carved out a specific niche, which has informed the development and delivery of all its programmes. All Strathmore’s graduate and undergraduate programmes integrate the necessary skills and competencies for the formation of well-rounded, ethical leaders capable of contributing to social development through their service to society. Among the necessary skills required for this goal are innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship while leveraging on already established partnerships and linkages with global partners and collaborators.

 

Prof. Izael Da Silva, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation reiterated on the transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon by2030. “This programme provides smart solutions and is deeply rooted on the essential 3 D’s of energy which are decentralization, de-carbonization and digitalization of energy systems.”

 

The launch ceremony was officiated by Eng. Naresh Mehta, Managing Director of Prisma Technics Ltd. Speaking to the need for developing a skilled workforce, Eng. Mehta lauded the University for taking the bold step in aligning its programmes to the Sustainable Development Goals. “This course supports the attainment of access to clean and affordable energy through Sustainable Development Goal 7. In addition, it provides a ready solution for the dire need to develop human capital for energy projects geared towards enhancing energy access by 2030 as well as build expertise to support the mega Infrastructure Development in Africa by the African Union.”

 

The launch event provided a platform for the awarding of scholarships, through a grant courtesy of Transforming Energy Access – Learning Partnership (TEA-LP), to candidates who met the admission criteria. This novel programme, with a partnership between eight African universities and a curriculum that is locally and internationally designed by industry players, is set to transform the energy sector by equipping early career graduates with technical skills and competencies to foster multi-disciplinary thinking that will enable them to develop sustainable energy transition solutions that respond to challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

To apply or know more about the programme, click this link: https://strathmore.edu/msc-sustainable-energy-transitions/

 

This article was written by Martha Ogonjo.

 

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via communications@strathmore.edu.

UK PACT supports Kenya’s low-carbon and inclusive green growth ambition with £3.7 million funding

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The Kenya-UK Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (Kenya-UK PACT) programme is delighted to announce that eight transformational projects have been awarded £3.7 million. These projects will support Kenya’s transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient growth.

 

The Kenya-UK PACT portfolio spans two priority sectors: energy and nature-based solutions.In the energy sector, UK PACT will be contributing to clean energy transitions and the development of off-grid community renewable energy sources through six projects. This will involve working closely with national government, counties and communities to ensure the transition is equitable and leads to the creation of green jobs.

 

In the nature-based solutions sector, UK PACT is supporting two projects. Both projects will support sustainable livelihood opportunities within landscape restoration. Additionally, one of the projects will focus on developing capacities for climate monitoring, reporting and verification.

 

The projects address the capacity-building needs of national, provincial and municipal government stakeholders. They will be implemented by a range of local and international organisations from the private and non-governmental sector, civil society and academia. All of the new UK PACT projects in Kenya support the UK COP26 Presidency objectives of accelerating a global transition to clean power that benefits jobs, workers, and communities and of protecting and restoring nature for the benefit of people and climate.

 

UK PACT energy sector projects:

  • Ricardo AEA will work with Baringo, Migori and Tana River county governments, developing bottom-up, decentralised approaches to improve electricity planning and promoting investment into low-carbon electricity generation.
  • IIED will develop inclusive, cross-sectoral energy projects with Kitui County which demonstrate how County Energy Plans can drive the development of low-carbon power to serve priority economic sectors.
  • KPMG will work with the Ministry of Energy to develop an off-grid solar electrification programme to detail the methodology, activities and budgets required towards achieving universal access to electricity through standalone solar systems.
  • Strathmore University will work collaboratively with the Narok county government to develop a data-driven energy plan to increase access to clean energy.
  • The University of Birmingham project will design and demonstrate community cooling hubs to affordably meet a portfolio of rural community cooling needs, including food, health, and human comfort, whilst reducing emissions.
  • The University of Edinburgh will co-design mini-grid energy models with selected rural communities to provide access to sustainable and affordable energy supplies from multiple local renewable energy sources.

UK PACT nature-based projects:

  • World Agroforestry (ICRAF) will co-design locally relevant forestry restoration practices that work alongside crop and livestock farming systems, while enabling a national task force to monitor, report and verify (MRV) restoration outcomes.
  • WWF will build on the Kaptagat integrated landscape restoration plan by training communities in agroforestry and climate-smart agricultural practices, providing employment and subsistence alternatives to unsustainable forest management practices.

This project portfolio will support a green, clean and resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya and the aims of COP26, hosted by the UK in Glasgow this November, accelerating action to rise to the challenges of climate change.

 

UK PACT is a £70m flagship programme funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It is part of the UK’s £11.6bn International Climate Finance commitment between 2021/22 and 2025/26, which is the UK’s primary international instrument to help deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement goals. It is one of the vital tools we are deploying to tackle climate change internationally and support the UK’s COP26 Presidency objectives.

 

Through its grants, UK PACT aims to improve the capacity and capability of key public, private and civil society institutions to reduce emissions and foster inclusive economic growth in partner countries, including Kenya. Read more about the Kenya-UK PACT portfolio on our web page.

 

Full list of projects and implementing partners delivering the projects in Kenya:

Name of the project Lead implementing partner Consortium partner
Enabling green development and recovery in Kitui County through energy planning IIED Caritas Kitui;
Loughborough University
Design of the national off-grid solar electrification programme KPMG n/a
Kenya Counties Programme for Decentralised Energy Systems (CODES) – County energy plan toolkit Ricardo AEA Kenya Climate Change Working Group
Energy planning tools and data-driven policy-making in Narok County Strathmore University World Resources Institute
RESILIENT Kenya The University of Edinburgh University of Bath; UK
Strathmore University; Kenya
World Vision Kenya;
Kenya Powerhive East Africa Ltd; Kenya
Community Cooling Hub (CCH) University of Birmingham London South Bank University (LSBU); UK
African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS); Kenya
Promoting nature-based solutions and national monitoring for land restoration World Agroforestry (ICRAF) World Resources Institute
Greening Kaptagat WWF-UK WWF-Kenya;
Eliud Kipchoge Foundation (EKF)

 

This article was first published by UK PACT here on 27th July, 2021.

 

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via communications@strathmore.edu

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.