Monthly Archives

May 2019

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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Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) project

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SERC was involved in the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) project titled: ‘Building capacity for enhancing bioenergy sustainability’ between 2018 and 2019 with support from United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). UNEP provided technical support to the participating research organizations on the meaning of and rationale behind the 24 indicators and their indicative methodological approaches; on how to adapt the indicators to the country context; and on how to implement the chosen methodologies.


The project was aimed at building capacity for enhancing bioenergy sustainability through the use of the global bioenergy partnership indicators. It was strongly linked to SDG 17 which is to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. The calculation and analysis of the 24 sustainability indicators was conducted by SERC in collaboration with Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). It was coordinated by SEI. The sustainability indicators were applied to two bioenergy pathways selected in consultation with stakeholders. (1) Use of sugarcane bagasse briquettes in the tea industry as an alternative to firewood and (2) Household use of charcoal produced on woodlands and farmlands, which is linked to sustainable development goal 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.


The study revealed that the opportunities within sugar factories for power generation are estimated at 300 MW but they have not been exploited. Other bioenergy uses in Kenya include; biogas, fuelwood, briquettes, pellets and charcoal. The 12 sugar mills in Kenya generate around 2.4 million tons of bagasse annually that remain unutilized. The briquettes made from bagasse save around 490 tons per year of wood resource, though their economic cost intensity is around three times more compared to firewood. The industrial use of briquettes in tea factories results in a gradual reduction in the consumption of primary wood biomass obtained from forests and woodlands as well as creates new jobs in the whole value chain.


By the time of the report, an estimated 2.5 million tons of charcoal are produced in the country annually. Production is mainly from arid and semi-arid lands. Nearly 0.5 million people work in the charcoal sector, which generates more than $427 million annually but it is not considered part of the formal economy of the country. Through adoption and sustained use of improved cookstoves integrated with on-farm sourcing of firewood, households can save 33.2 per cent and 76 percent of time spent sourcing the fuel.


This work was made possible with the financial support of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).


It is led by Prof. Izael Da Silva.


This article was written by Victor Otieno, Researcher,

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.