The Solar Power for Houses and Business Policy Advisory Committee Convene a Stakeholder Workshop

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SPHB Policy Advisory Committee was convened by the National Commission for Science, Technology, and Innovation (NACOSTI) in collaboration with Strathmore University, the University of Nairobi (Institute of Climate Change and Adaptation and Condensed Matter Research Group), KIRDI, NuPEA and KenGen. The advisory committee chaired by Strathmore University through SERC is aimed at fulfilling three main objectives:

  • Explore ways of encouraging households to embrace solar for own use and to sell excess to government through net metering policy.
  • Explore ways of utilizing as much local content and materials as possible in execution of the solar projects.
  • Explore ways of empowering small businesses and jua kali sector to plug in offering simple solutions and consuming the same.

In this regard, the Advisory committee funded by National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and the Newton Fund through the British Council through GENS project hosted the Energy Policy and Innovation in Kenya workshop in which thirty participants both locally and internationally took part on 24th November, 2020. This workshop was to allow various stakeholders in the government, industry, and academia to discuss pathways towards a strategic, market-focused, user-oriented policy that will fast track the adoption of solar energy by households and businesses in Kenya.


The key objectives of the workshop were to present findings from the benchmarking exercise; present the framework for stakeholder consultation in the Solar PV industry in Kenya; discuss challenges that hamper the growth of the Solar PV market for households and business in Kenya; and discuss the incentives and support systems that would promote innovation and the uptake of Solar PV technologies at the household, business, county, and national levels.


During the consultative sessions, participants were divided into five groups to discuss the questionnaire for different groups: houses, business (SMEs), learning institutions and independent research organizations, policy makers from the government and the private sector, and mini grid developers and financial institutions. Some of the feedback during this session included: how to understand the pricing model of solar material. One group suggested using mystery shopping to collect information as the use of solar energy is a business for most and therefore getting information on pricing can be difficult. Additionally, another group suggested that the questionnaire should be customized for different companies within the supply chain to have a complete overview of the market.


“There is a high penetration in the country by company names but there are only a few big multinational companies that dominate the market.” said one participant “which is where I would like to end”. Where in the supply chain do you see yourself participating in the journey to renewable energy at the house-hold, business, county and national level?


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This article was compiled by Anne Njeri Njoroge.


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Sustainable Energy for Executives- Financing the Transition

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Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) held a breakfast session on Financing the Transition for Sustainable Energy for corporate executives on 11th September 2019 at the University. The breakfast session brought together professionals financing renewable energy projects from the banking, investment and development sector. This is in line with SERC’s plan to launch a series of executive courses aimed at senior level management. The objective of the session was to gather input on the training curriculum and discuss the areas that need to be incorporated within the existing Sustainable Energy for Executives with a focus on financiers course content.


The breakfast session was inaugurated by Prof Izael Da Silva who is the DVC for Research and Innovation at the University. He rightly echoed the need for financiers to play a role financing the Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE) sector seeing that the university was a beneficiary of the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) loan through Sunref. As a result, Strathmore University installed a 600kW solar PV system which meets the university’s internal energy demand, and during the weekend when the students are off campus the excess is imported to the grid through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).


The workshop proceeded with an introduction to Energy Access by Ms. Sarah Odera, Director of the Strathmore Energy Research Centre. “Energy Access efforts are shifting from centralized systems to decentralized systems with the focus being on underserved regions of the country”, Ms. Odera emphasized as she pointed out the need for financiers to invest in DRE technologies to accelerate the development process.


“The main challenge in funding DRE is the mismatch of priorities between the funders and the DRE companies” according to African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Principal Regional Officer, Dr. Somorin Olufunso. As a result, AfDB trains both DRE companies and local commercial banks how to come up with winning proposals and how what to look at when funding DREs respectively. He further pointed out that they are willing to partner with the University to enhance the standard learning system within the DRE sector.


The other speakers in the workshop who included Mr. Maarteen Kleijn, Senior Officer- focusing on off-grid Solar in Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) and Mr. Humphrey Wireko, who is a senior associate at Cross Boundary both presented on the different challenges they face in the course of their operations and the different financial models they have adopted so as to fund the DRE sector sustainably. All the stakeholders agreed that the DRE sector poses a lucrative opportunity for investment and that a structured learning system would be beneficial in enabling the decision makers to make timely investment and financing decisions.


The stakeholders then gave tangible feedback on the course outline which was presented by Mr. Geoffrey Ronoh, who is a research fellow in the University. The course would touch on areas such as knowledge in conducting technical due diligence in energy projects, them nuances specific in the energy sector to obtain an understanding of consumer profiles, distributed renewable energy companies and the regulatory environment. Some of the key feedback included the need to ensure that the course is practical and engaging so as to address the day to day challenges that the financiers face.


The workshop was successfully concluded with an agreement to launch the course in October 2019.



This article was written by Hope Njoroge

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Transforming Energy Access- Learning and Partnerships (TEA-LP) Workshop

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Transforming Energy Access- Learning and Partnerships (TEA-LP) Workshop was held at Strathmore University Business School from 6th to 8th August 2019. Strathmore University was amongst 8 Sub-Saharan Universities to receive funding from Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DfID) for the development of new curricula centred on the theme of sustainable energy access for all, and was part of the  Transforming Energy Access (TEA) project coordinated by Carbon Trust through University of Cape Town (UCT). The multifaceted attendance of academics and professionals lent their expertise towards formulating a post-graduate curriculum that will furnish the African energy sector with useful knowledge and skills necessary to realise the promise of low-cost, high value and eco-friendly energy access across Africa and the globe.       

The event marked the second stage of the pedagogical effort and the activities included interactive  presentations and elaborate brainstorming sessions that put into focus the energy access landscape and highlighted the unaddressed snarls in the energy eco-system. Addressing energy concerns has increasingly become an anchor point upon which a viable sustainability consciousness can be achieved. In order to ensure availability of affordable and clean energy as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), global efforts similar to the TEA-LP will promote energy access irrespective of spatial-temporal and socio-economic constraints that have been chronic irritants on the energy access frontier. 43% of Sub-Saharan Africa has access to energy, which is almost half of the global average which stands at 87%. By fortifying the supply of knowledge and skills in the energy sector with an effective and updated curriculum that addresses the gaps in the current energy access structure is a significant step in the direction of an energy efficient planet.

“Energy is not just a resource; it also involves how the people interact with it.” This significant statement made during a presentation by Jon Cloke, Network Manager at LCDEN, underpins the importance of socio-cultural contextualisation of energy as a means of achieving true change that pervades society and improves standards of living for all.

To provide the needed context offered by a holistic perspective, each university team was comprised of a multidiscipline outfit of academics and professionals who supplied the exercise with complementary knowledge and the experience needed to design an effective and robust teaching curriculum. Such a multidisciplinary approach also further incorporates the amalgamation of both hard and soft skills needed to create a socially sensitive and economically viable energy access system that can unlock Africa’s immense potential.

The outcome of the overall process will eventually be actualised by the anticipated postgraduate course which will bring forth the desired energy revolution. Despite the weighty issues that were discussed, the workshop also served as a platform for the attendees to learn more about other countries and also to extend their network for deeper support.


The article was written by Neville Ramogo Otema.

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Strathmore University hosts FEWA Collaboration Network Workshop

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Strathmore University hosted a half-day workshop to launch the FEWA Collaboration Network and to explore what other organizations are undertaking in the food-energy-water nexus to identify research gaps and opportunities that will foster further collaborations among the engaged institutions.

Novel irrigation methods in arid and semi-arid regions

 The University, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh through grant funds under the Newton Institutional Links Program funded by the British Council have been implementing a research project for the past one year titled “Enhanced Food Security and Afforestation through Novel Approaches to Irrigation”.  The project had the objectives of investigating the novel methods for irrigation in the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya, developing a prototype of a solar thermal fresh water generator that can be used to desalinate brackish water and identifying failure causes of existing reverse osmosis desalination systems in the country. FEWA Collaboration Network was formed to facilitate sustainability of future research collaborations between the two research institutions to address all research works in food, energy and water nexus.

In attendance at the workshop were a team of researchers: Sarah Odera, Director, Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC), Dr. Dimitri Mignard representing the University of Edinburgh, and Dr. Michael Wawire and Dr. Saoke Churchill, both from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Techonology (JKUAT).  Other key industry practitioners in the sector from both private sector and non-governmental organizations included representatives from Riara University, Kenya Water Institute (KEWI), and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), EED Advisory ltd, Practional Action Kenya, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Kenya and Shabaha Engineering ltd among others.

Need for baseline research

Part of the workshop activities facilitated discussions with the aim of identifying the network themes and future activities, a process that was led by Dr. Dimitri and Sarah Odera.  The discussions revolved around awareness, technology adoption and affordability, sustainable harvesting of biomass as well as proper utilization of agricultural and animal wastes to provide alternatives sources of energy. The participants wholly agreed that there is a need for baseline research to acquire reliable data on existing consumer awareness, reliability of distribution channels of the different technologies in the sector, energy needs of the small-scale farmers, and the major challenges being encountered.

Field survey

In efforts to address these challenges and fill the current research gaps, participants agreed to collaborate in sharing all relevant publications, articles and research papers that would provide information on the areas discussed during the workshop. Participants outlined the need for a field survey in various parts of the country to get a clear picture of issues affecting these communities. This would eventually lead to a conclusive report and recommendations for sustainable approaches to solve the issues in the food, energy and water nexus. “I am very grateful to have experts share their personal experiences and knowledge in food, energy and water nexus. They have good ideas which we can use to move forward,” said Dr. Mignard, University of Edinburgh.


This article was written by:  Patrick Mwanzia Kioko.


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Strathmore University Team wins Initiate! Impact Challenge

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The team representing Strathmore University won the Initiate! Impact Challenge during this year’s African Utility week in Cape Town, South Africa. Alex Osunga, Fredrick Amariati, Ignatius Maranga and Raymond Kiyegga emerged victorious after their innovation, The Kijiji project, was selected as the best from a pool of four participating universities: Stellenbosch UniversityUniversity of Cape Town, the University of Witwatersrand and Strathmore University.


The challenge was sponsored by Enel Foundation, the Innovation Hub, Lesedi Nuclear Services and the Russian Nuclear Agency, Rosatom. The team took home R20, 000 which they would like to invest in their winning project, the Kijiji Project.


Solar powered container


The project provides a solution to electricity access in rural areas and is centred on a solar powered container. The container is a hub that acts as a power source, and an attraction point for people. It also has a health clinic, a knowledge hub and provisions for business. It is a 40ft container with 25kW capacity solar panels and 6000AH battery storage. This supplies electricity to the clinic, knowledge hub and three shops (with a capacity of cooling and having a maize mill).


“Through the container, people will see and understand the benefits of electricity. This will lead them to want electricity in their homes. More containers can be added with demand, and some energy can be used to charge batteries for home use. Solar-Powered bikes will deliver these batteries to homes. Like an Uber for Energy,” said Ignatius Maranga.


Open Africa Power Alumni


The team found it a challenging yet wonderful learning experience. They emphasised the importance of teamwork, simplicity and never giving up. Ignatius Maranga (also a member of Engineering for Change) and Fredrick Amariati are Open Africa Power 2018 alumni. Alex Osunga is a former president of the Strathmore University Environment Club.


“Our solution was urbanising rural areas. So we set up a centre where people can do business and then the community can be empowered both by those running the business and their customers,” said the team as they explained their solution and the role of their innovation.


This article was written by Christine Mukasa

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Strathmore University hosts The Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme

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The Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC), in partnership with the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), Loughborough University and UK Aid, hosted the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme – East Africa – launch at Strathmore University. Among the key speakers at the event were Professor Tom Ogada from Ministry of Energy and Professor Ed Brown from Loughborough University.

Launch of eCookBook

The aim of the MECS East Africa launch was to bring together key regional stakeholders to explore the unique opportunities and challenges in each national context, the crossover space between the electrification and clean cooking spheres and how MECS ties into what is already happening in the region. During the event, the eCookBook by Jon Leary and Jacob Fodio Todd was launched. Focusing on one of the most energy intensive popular food groups, beans and cereals, the eCookBook seeks to explore the relationship between energy use and cooking. This is to inform cooks on how best to take advantage of new opportunities such as modern energy efficient cooking appliances. The book was produced in Nairobi.

Despite increased electricity access, people still cook with biomass. Weak grids, affordability of electricity, tradition, perceptions and lack of suitable cooking appliances have hindered scaling up the use of electricity or gas for clean cooking. However, renewable energy generation has increased access to affordable and reliable electricity, and technological advancements have enabled production of appliances that are more energy-efficient but still cook foods to their right taste. This has opened new windows of opportunity.

Electric cooking

“What was most important about this workshop was that it showed that electric cooking is a viable cooking option. We at SERC are excited about the opportunities that electric cooking has in store for the continent, especially on the health front,” said Anne Wacera Wambugu, the quality manager at SERC and an electrical appliances and Renewable energy systems expert.

MECS is a UK Aid funded research and innovation programme designed to facilitate a transition away from biomass to modern cooking solutions, such as electricity and LPG. The programme is led by Loughborough University, UK, drawing in global partnerships, including the World Bank’s ESMAP (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program) and CCA (Clean Cooking Alliance, formerly GACC). Other partners at the launch included: Clasp, Energy Saving Trust and Efficiency for Access.


The article was compiled by Christine Mukasa.


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Empowering Africa – Energy in Eastern Africa

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Eastern Africa is blessed with abundant energy resources. If sustainably developed, these resources have the potential to make the region achieve universal electricity access, which is a key factor in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is this matter that Prof Izael Da Silva, the DVC Research and Innovation, tackles in his latest publication, a chapter in “Empowering Africa – Access to Power in the African continent.”


The book, published by the Swiss publisher Peter Lang in March 2018, was edited by Lorenzo Colantoni, Giuseppe Montesano and Nicolo Sartori. Peter Lang is one of the top five publishers in the world, and the most reputable in the field of social sciences and politics. The book was published in cooperation with Istituto Affari Internazionali, Enel Foundation and the Policy Centre for the New South.


Prof Da Silva’s chapter, which he presented during the book launch on 6th May 2019 in Rome, was aptly titled “Energy in Eastern Africa.” It begins by giving a brief description of the energy landscape in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, which constitute the greater Eastern Africa region.


The chapter highlights how countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia alone have hydropower potential which can power half of Africa if exploited well. Tanzania, on the other hand, has access to large reserves of natural gas while South Sudan sits on top of large oil reserves. Djibouti can power itself entirely off geothermal energy, and Somalia, once stabilised, has access to abundant amounts of solar energy.


Despite all this potential, the region remains reliant on charcoal, firewood and farm waste as its primary energy source. Moreover, the electricity sector lacks proper infrastructure, registers low production, and is bridled by inefficient systems and high transmission losses and high costs. In most of the East African countries, less than 20% of the population has access to electricity. At 55% access, Kenya and Djibouti are the most developed countries in the region in this respect.


Prof Da Silva notes that as the region’s population and economy continue to expand, energy deficits will plague the region even further if nothing is done to address the situation. He highlights the challenges standing in the way and what the governments in the region are currently doing to increase electricity access. He also makes policy recommendations that countries would do well to consider as they set about the quest for universal access to electricity for the “Dark Continent”.


He concludes the chapter by emphasising the potential energy market available in these markets and the importance of these countries to focus on renewable energy.


A summary of the entire book is available on the distributor’s website, where it can also be purchased:


This article was compiled by Anne Njeri.

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Strathmore Team selected for “Initiate! Impact Challenge” at African Utility Week.

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From 14th to 16th May, a team of postgraduates will represent Strathmore University at the “Initiate! Impact Challenge” at this year’s African Utility Week. Fredrick Amariati, Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga and Alex Osunga were the candidates selected to represent the university at the annual event hosted in Cape Town, South Africa. The four emerged with the best abstracts out of all the other applicants from the university, which are chosen by a panel from the event.


“We are looking at reducing the cost of having solutions that work for single houses and going for communities coming together to fund a solar solution that can give them energy and electricity,” says Raymond Kiyegga, in response to what the project they are presenting is about.


The Initiate! 3-day challenge is for postgraduate students enrolled at Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town, the University of Witwatersrand and Strathmore University. It involves completing a series of challenges that will enable the contestants to immerse themselves in the conference and exhibition while sourcing opinions from experts and pooling ideas from conference sessions. The team hopes to interact with mentors and key players in the sector for guidance and ways to improve their project. According to Fredrick Amariati, “We would like to know what is happening in other universities, learn from what they are doing, know what innovations are coming up in the sector and incorporate it with what we are doing.”


The 19th annual African Utility Week is the leading conference and trade exhibition for African power, energy and water professionals. This year’s event brings in the addition of POWERGEN Africa, expanding focus on generation (Including renewables, off grid) while still concentrating on transmission and distribution, new technologies (including storage, mini grids, IOT and ICT systems) and, of course, water.


“There will be various utility companies from Africa showcasing their technology, innovations and products. We hope to understand their needs, products and challenges, and this should help with the solution we are coming up with.” Ignatius Maranga


Two of the candidates, Ignatius Maranga and Fredrick Amariati, are Open Africa Power 2018 alumni. Open Africa Power is a programme about renewable energy. It was founded by the NL Foundation, of which Strathmore is the main implementing partner. Its main objective is to forge the next generation of clean energy leaders for Africa.


On the last day of the “Initiate! Impact Challenge”, the teams will be invited to pitch their innovations to a prestigious committee of judges and the winning team walks away with a prize of R20,000.


This article was written by Christine Mukasa


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Strathmore University signs MoU with KETRACO

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On Wednesday 8th March, Strathmore University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited (KETRACO) at their main offices in Nairobi. The University was represented by Prof Izael da Silva and Sarah Odera, Director at Strathmore Energy Research Centre. While FCPA Fernandes Barasa, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, signed on behalf of KETRACO. The MoU is a platform for collaborative research, workshops, capacity building, inventions.


“Strathmore University is the only university with a well-developed research center, and as part of our mandate, we promote the use of green energy, an area Strathmore is well established in,” says David Ndwinga, Director of the research department at KETRACO. Being the only organization that transmits electricity in Kenya, KETRACOserves as an information hub for the research center at the university. The signing of this document signifies a collaboration in which Strathmore University provides research, and KETRACO provides the practical aspect of electricity transmission.


“Partnering with an off-taker of our research work will enable us to conduct relevant research projects for the energy sector,” said Sarah Odera.


The MoU was signed in the light of KETRACO’s recently established research department. The company is keen on strategic partnerships, in the areas of energy transmissions, and energy efficiency among others. Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited (KETRACO) was incorporated in December 2008; and registered under the Companies Act, Cap 486 pursuant to Sessional Paper No. 4 of 2004 on Energy.  It is government owned and is regulated under the State Corporations Act, Cap 446 and Energy Act, 2006.


“When the government and Research and Development (Strathmore) come together, we are able to revolutionize the industry.” Prof Izael de Silva


This article was written by Christine Mukasa.


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Impact of Solar Cooling in Kenya and Agricultural Value Chains

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In the 2017 approximately 61 Billion was lost from the following agricultural value chains; Irish potatoes, milk, millet, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, pineapples, tomatoes and sorghum. The reason for this loss was; poor storage, transport and fungi attack. According to standard media article, a third of the food produced is lost yearly. Kenya is currently grappling with the possibility of a countrywide drought.

A few solutions have been recommended to solve the postharvest losses in Kenya but the response is not taken up positively because of the following reasons;

  • The technology is not locally available due to cost.
  • Skills transfer to the locals is not done efficiently and managing such systems becomes problematic.
  • The areas where these technologies are needed most, there is no grid connection to electricity.

Urgent areas that are crucial and prime for solutions in solar cooling are;

  • Fish
  • Tomatoes
  • Mangoes
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Milk

In a bid to solve these problems; Strathmore University Energy Research Centre partnered with Hohenheim University funded by Powering Agriculture have held a workshop to sensitize on possible research on solar cooling technologies in Kenya and how to increase agricultural productivity in Kenya. During the workshop; various technologies were introduced that could meet different needs and solve different functions as follows;

  • Solar Ice maker – Primarily makes approximately 54 kg of ice
  • Battery free refrigerator – it is solar powered, makes use of icepacks to keep the products at 4C
  • Water Chiller – battery powered, converts water to ice.

Applications of the technologies above are the following but not restricted to;

  • Milk cooling
  • Vegetable and fruit preservation in cold rooms for storage as well as in transportation trucks.
  • Fridges for soft drink vendors.
  • Use of the solar coolers to keep biological elements below freezing point.
  • Air Conditioning in the event of very hot days, the water chiller functions as an air cooler but works best in closed spaces.

A synergy with SERC will ensure more research into other functions that the technology can be used for. More so introduction of this technology in pre-existing value chains that need boosting and optimization. Other possible areas of synergy include working with the Energy Regulatory Commission to get subsidies for this technology.  The milk cooling application has been tried in Siaya and Kisumu and the results have been very positive. Upon introduction of the systems, notable changes were as follows;

  • More milk was getting to the cooperatives in the evening.
  • More milk delivered meant more money to the farmers.
  • There was a considerable improvement in the livelihoods of the women involved in the project.

The success of these systems was pegged on the following;

  • Good training of the people of the ground.
  • There was a sense of ownership of the project by the farmers.
  • Willingness of the farmers to try the new technology.

Milk is but one of the value chains in the agricultural sector. Research in the rest of the agricultural value chains will unlock future partnered researches between SERC and Hohenheim University. This will also see SERC possibly start a course in Solar Cooling to build capacity on solar cooling.