Category

News

Strathmore to Set Up UNESCO Chair to Address Climate Change

By | News | No Comments

 

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?

By | News | No Comments

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

By | News | No Comments

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

By | News | No Comments

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

By | News | No Comments

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

By | News | No Comments

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.

Biomedical engineers trained in Tier 2 level systems

By | News | No Comments

This week marks the end of cohort two training for biomedical engineers from Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kisumu, Samburu, Siaya and Tana River. The biomedical engineers learned how to design, size, install, and maintain solar photovoltaic systems. They also attended classes on workplace issues revolving around design thinking, business communication skills, mental health, and professional documentation. The training, which spans four cohorts, aims to provide a sustainable solution to hospitals in the most vulnerable counties, and to support ongoing Covid-19 efforts in the healthcare sector.

 

Electricity plays a critical role in the delivery of patient services including vaccination, which requires refrigeration. In the absence of electricity, these services grind to a halt and can lead to an increased risk of patient death. Unreliable electricity also slows down the modernization of healthcare services thus adversely affecting vulnerable populations in rural areas. Frequent down-times reduce equipment dependability and lack of equipment disincentivizes medical professionals from working in rural areas.

 

“In the dispensaries, we are faced with challenges of paying electricity bills. The allocated amount sometimes doubles, and this then becomes a challenge. I have seen that the use of solar energy will help us a lot in the sub-county,” says Roslyn Chepkemoi, Biomedical Engineer, Bomet Central sub-county. Reliable power remains a critical issue in sub-Saharan Africa as shown by a systematic review done in 2013 in 14 countries which found that only 34 percent of grid-connected hospitals had reliable electricity. Further, around 41 percent of healthcare facilities do not have access to electricity and 70 percent of medical devices in Africa cannot be used due to lack of good and stable quality of power. Taking this into account, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic calls for a renewed focus on electrification of rural healthcare facilities with no grid connection and the provision of better backup to those without reliable electricity. Both can be achieved using off-grid technologies such as solar photovoltaic systems.

 

Properly installed, operated, and maintained solar photovoltaic systems with batteries are reliable and cost-competitive compared to alternatives such as fuel gen-sets when properly installed, operated, and maintained. When financed upfront, they require a high initial capital expenditure which can be unattainable for health-care facilities. However, the availability of financing is improving, and knowledgeable individuals can assist hospitals assess the options they have. These are some of the issues covered in the training.

 

“In addition, I learnt that the user should be empowered on how to use the system. This will assist the user to avoid system overload. Further, I also realized that the use of LEDs and CFLs instead of normal bulbs is more efficient in the long run.” added Roselyn.

 

The project runs from June 2020 to January 2022 but the courses, which began in late November 2020, will run until April 2021, with the extra time being used for follow-ups and impact assessment. By the end of the course, Strathmore Energy Research Center will have trained 60 biomedical engineers from 30 counties. These are: Busia, TransNzoia, Vihiga, Kericho, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bomet, Bungoma, Taita Taveta, Nyamira, Kwale, Baringo, West Pokot, Tharaka Nithi, Narok, Nyandarua, Migori, Homa Bay, Laikipia, Kilifi, Kajiado, Marsabit, Kitui, Murang’a, Tana River, Isiolo, Lamu, Kirinyaga, Samburu, Makueni and Kakamega.

 

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

 

Exclusive Interview: Professor Izael Da Silva

By | News | No Comments

Professor Da Silva is a renewable energy specialist with over 20 years of experience in research and academic leadership. He holds a PhD and a Master of Science (MSc) in Electrical Engineering, with a specialisation in Power Systems, from the University of Sao Paulo, as well as a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Electrical Engineering, with a specialisation in Power Systems and Telecommunications, from the Federal University of Parana. He has worked on research projects with government ministries, development agencies (like GIZSidaThe World Bank) and industry stakeholders (within and outside Africa).

 

WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN LIFE?

 

My dad. He did not go to school but he was a wise man and understood the need for education. He spent a great deal of time teaching me about business and life in general such as kindness, generosity, the need to cultivate a good relationship with God, the quest for excellence, and the importance of small things, among others. Another important thing he taught me was accountability. If I did something bad, I had to acknowledge it and face the consequences.

 

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR AND WHAT WAS YOUR KEY TAKEAWAY?

 

I read a lot. Amongst my favourites are The Lord of the RingsKristin LavransdatterCrime and PunishmentMan’s Search for Meaning, Getting things done, etc. However, there is one book which has had a great influence on my life: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I have read this book about 10 times and I use it often to train people working under me.

 

WHEN MEETING OTHER LEADERS WHAT DO YOU ASK THEM?

 

I love listening to other people’s stories. I ask about their journey and what motivates them to keep going. I used to talk a lot but time has taught me that to listen is smarter.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE AND WHAT LESSON LEARNED DO YOU CONTINUE TO PRACTISE TODAY?

 

My first serious leadership experience was when I decided to leave Brazil and settle in Uganda in 1997. A new country, new language, new culture and nobody to validate me. I had a PhD in Power Systems but the country was not yet prepared to offer me an opportunity to meaningfully use my doctorate. I had to choose a new area of interest that could make an impact in society. I chose renewable energy and I never looked back. I discovered that there are many ways of doing things right, and so I had to learn to be flexible. I also learnt that one cannot go far alone, and so I had to learn to delegate and synergise.

 

IS A LEADER BORN OR MADE?

 

Both! Not everyone is called to be a leader in the sense we are considering here. My mom has never worked outside our home and yet she is a leader and, in a way, has always managed to make my dad look good. She inspired me a lot as well. There is always room for improvement and extended education. I am a passionate person who wants to learn new things until the day I die.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?

 

Humility! If one is ready to keep doing the right thing and allow the people in his/her team to shine, that person is a leader. One can learn a lot about leadership by reading Sharma’s book The Leader who Had no Title. Two other features which help are: passion and deep knowledge of whichever area one is dealing with.

 

WHAT INDUSTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR ARE YOU LOOKING AT FOR INSPIRATION?

 

I love coaching and mentoring, with a keen interest in philosophy, anthropology, critical thinking and other similar areas. At Strathmore University I have a list of about ten people whom I mentor and I speak once or twice each semester. Having run seven full marathons, I am a fitness freak who keeps checking the average speed of a five- or ten-kilometer race on my fitness tracker.

 

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

 

It was to go for an academic career without anyone in my family ever having gone to university. At 17 years I left my small town and job to pursue an engineering career with zero money! I learned from my father how to repair watches and with that skill, I was able to study, get a government-paid engineering degree and later another national government-supported Masters and PhD. Today many of my relatives have degrees because they were inspired by my little madness!

 

IF YOU COULD WISH AWAY A CHALLENGE TO YOUR BUSINESS OR THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

 

One of my dreams is to coach graduate engineers to help them become registered engineers and behave in an ethical manner. I would tell each one of them that if we each commit ourselves to be a good professional who does not steal and does not lie, though we may not solve the problems of the world, for sure there will be two “thugs” less on this planet. And that would be something already! So, yes, I would wish away the complacency with corruption that so many African professionals have.

 

WHAT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES DO YOU USE TO KEEP A TEAM MOTIVATED?

 

The main “tool” is the inside out struggle. They have to see you fighting to be better. If you are: a) proactive, b) start with the end in mind and c) put first things first, I can warrant your success as an inspiring leader. This is the lesson I learnt from the book by Covey I mentioned above. It is really a “must read” for all who want to make it in life in a holistic manner.

 

HOW DO YOU MEASURE YOUR AND YOUR TEAM’S PERFORMANCE?

 

At Strathmore University we have a biannual evaluation following up on our agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This helps keep you on track as you begin working on these KPIs from the start of the year that you can split into several actionable tasks. One thing that helps is to have all the KPIs of all the people working with me aligned in such a way that natural synergy appears with amazing results. The main issue is to do things rather than talk about things. We always have in mind the importance of avoiding N.A.T.O. which is my acronym for No Action, Talk Only! NATO people must either change or be let go.

 

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY AS A LEADER IN A TIME WHERE LEADERSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER?

 

The first rule of leadership when facing uncertainty is to “Accept Reality”. Every day things happen to us. Some are good, others are neutral, and some are bad. Accept them all. This is your raw material to achieve your success. Wishful thinking is a waste of time. For example, last year and even now, we have the COVID-19 pandemic with all its consequences. I accept COVID-19 and ask: how can COVID-19 make me a better person and how can COVID-19 help me to help other people? If because of COVID-19 I acquire some virtues and avoid some vices and if on top of it all I become more charitable and make people’s lives better, COVID-19 has done good to me!

 

WHAT ROLE DO YOU SEE YOUR TEAM PLAYING IN THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY OF THE 2020 GLOBAL PANDEMIC?

 

My institution is small (about 1,000 staff members) and is aligned with our strategic goals and values. This helped us to fast-track the training of lecturers and researchers so that they could perform their duties via the internet in a fast and highly professional manner. This made all the difference when the lockdown started. We created a suitable environment for all students to keep learning with enough bundles, laptop, administrative support and mentoring. We plan to continue working together with students, lecturers and parents to face the challenges of economic recovery. We have been organising ‘townhalls’ with all stakeholders and this has helped us to get innovative ideas and put them into practice.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS SCENARIO PLANNING WHEN IMPLEMENTING ANNUAL STRATEGIES?

 

Without scenario planning it is impossible to develop people and institutions. Unless we know where we want to be in one year’s time, management becomes an unattainable task. I have been working with integrated reporting for eight years now. We consider development on the three P’s: People, Planet and Profits. Alignment becomes easy and the results are amazing.

 

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT DIGITALISATION, THE COMPLEXITIES AND INTRICACIES, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS AROUND THIS AND HOW IT WILL CHANGE THE SHAPE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR AFRICA?

 

My opinion is that whoever does not see the importance of digitalisation today will have some difficulties typical of someone who is trying to do a job without suitable tools. The result is, most often than not, a disappointing one. We have to know that the future is the Internet of Things, Big Data, Smart Meters, Smart Cities, Smart Grids, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, etc. ENEL, the utility of Italy, bought 17 million connections in Brazil in 2019. They started immediately with the digitalisation of the whole system to shorten downtime and to reduce maintenance time and cost. These measures improved the financial performance of that business! Today Africa needs to train people who are able to work within this ecosystem. IBM is helping with a programme called Africa Digital Nation. It is a free platform where training is offered in the above-mentioned areas so that in 10 years’ time the young skilled people of this continent will be able to innovate not only at home but also by holding positions of high responsibility in the global arena.

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?

 

I want to be remembered as a man who spread joy and peace around himself and enjoyed working a lot and making friends.

 

I came to Africa in 1997 with my just-defended PhD. I started working in Makerere and set up a research centre called CREEC – Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation. We worked a lot with GIZ, The World Bank, Sida-SAREC, the government, private sector players such as SMA, ABB, Siemens, etc. In 2010 I moved to Kenya. Here I started working in Strathmore University where we set up another research centre called SERC – Strathmore Energy Research Centre. I put a lot of work into these two research centres, and I enjoyed every bit of it as I am passionate about renewable energy and energy efficiency.

 

The innovations we implemented in these two countries changed, for the better, the lives of many people and instilled passion in my students and colleagues. They eventually joined me in this exciting journey of making this planet a better place and providing better living conditions for people who otherwise would not have access to reliable, affordable and clean energy. As a professional, I think I can leave behind an example of someone who is skilled, passionate and able to get things done.

 

This article was first published on Africa Power & Energy Elites website

Do you know the cost of each meal you cook?

By | News | No Comments

These were some of the questions a team of staff at the Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) sort to answer during a cooking demonstration held on 22nd January 2021. The team sliced tomatoes, onions, and coriander as well as peeled potatoes, and cooking bananas. Ugali, rice, kales, cabbages, and traditional kienyeji chicken were also prepared. The cooking demonstration was an educative session by SERC Quality Manager, GEng. Anne Wacera Wambugu on the use of AC Electric Pressure Cookers (EPC). Each EPC had an energy monitor provided by Pereybere Energy, who are collaborating with Strathmore University on the electric cooking projects.

 

“The experience was great especially cooking kienyeji chicken in forty minutes and at a cost of Kshs 8.50. The exercise was also a super team-building opportunity as everyone did all they could to ensure the meals were ready on time regardless of the new cooking style.” Martin Mutembei, Project Coordinator, FCDO funded Transforming Energy Access Learning Partnership Program.

 

Starting February, the team from Strathmore and Pereybere will distribute 100 AC EPCs attached to an energy monitor to newly electrified (through the Last Mile Connectivity Project) households in Murangá, Kericho, and Kisumu. They will then track the use of the pressure cookers for 6 months, through an online platform.

 

“Learning how to cook using electric pressure cookers was quite an interesting experience. What I liked more about the whole experience apart from learning different energy profiles of the food we cooked, was seeing the promising sustainable future both economically and environmentally that these electric pressure cookers and the soon to be developed solar cookers will bring.” Lisa Nzeyimana, Project Development Executive, Africa Energy Services Group, Rwanda.

 

The exercise is a combined effort from several electric cooking projects which together will:

  • Document and anticipate any quality challenges that the electric cooking sector might experience now and in the future.
  • Encourage and understand the use of electric pressure cookers by on-grid customers connected by the Last Mile Connectivity Project.
  • Develop an electric cooker suitable for off-grid areas – a project financed by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 under the LEAP-RE project.

 

The cooking demonstration was in preparation for the launch of the data collection exercise early next month.

 

This article was written by Anne Njeri

Making Solar Work

By | News | No Comments

Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) and MDF Training and Consulting are implementing a capacity-building project under the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) which is supported by Nuffic. The project, dubbed Making Solar Work, involves implementing a Tailor-Made Training that aims to build the capacity of the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) and the Arusha Technical College Solar Training Centre (ATCSTC) staff.

 

The first phase began on 1st December 2020 with a three-day field study visit at SERC. During this time, the team had a benchmarking session on the legal and regulatory framework in the energy sector, highlighting training accreditation and licensing of solar technicians and engineers. Later, the participants discussed the solar PV course curricula, training transcripts and training kits used at SERC giving a high-level review of training off-grid solar systems, grid-tie systems, hybrid solar systems and solar water pumping systems.

 

“I have seen a practical solar energy system in Strathmore University that feeds into the grid. That was new for me. 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” Eng. Urbanus Melkior, a lecturer at ASTSC since 2011.

 

The five will then share their knowledge with fifteen technical trainers and facilitators from vocational training colleges in Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Massai lands, and Moshi.

 

“I have received a training manual that will help as a reference point when I return to Tanzania. I have found that the solar courses here are more advanced and will help me upgrade my existing skills,” said Elvitha Issack, Trainer at TAREA, Solar Department

 

All our training sessions are hands-on and allow every participant a chance to feel and touch the sample solar equipment used for training. Our labs provide a 14kWp PV/genset/storage demonstrational hybrid system which can be operated in battery storage or fuel saver configuration.

 

Would you like to learn more on Solar PV courses? Click this link https://www.strathmore.edu/serc/ to learn more.

 

This article was written by Thomas Bundi and Anne Njeri Njoroge.