Author - Njeri Kamau
The meet-up was held on the 3rd of September at the iHub.
The first session of the meet-up featured panelists from startups. Antony and Dr. Winnie Waudo participated in the global Negawatt Challenge and their teams will be proceeding to the finals. After they complete in the acceleration phase one of their teams will be selected the winner and will be attending the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona fully paid for. There they will exhibit their devices.
Antony was from a team called Pawa-tele, formally known as Angaza. They were working on an intelligent switch that enables one to manage their electricity consumption using both grid and solar electricity, thus enabling one to generate savings from using more solar than grid. The amount of money saved by using solar helps one scale into solar bit by bit.
Dr. Waudo, a renewable energy specialist, was from a team called Plugin Pulse which was working on a device that helps one generate electricity consumption data. This will help you identify ones consumption patterns by identifying the times of day that one has consumption peaks or troughs in energy use.
The third panelist Patrick Kimathi was the founder of Skynotch energy solutions. The company stated in 2012 September and was ready for market in 2013 September. He shared with the audience some of the challenges that he experience when started out. He emphasized that it was important for anyone who wanted to join the industry to constantly update themselves with knowledge in the energy sector because it was constantly changing. The policies are constantly being changed and they affect his business. He said that many licenses were required to operate. He emphasized that mentorship was key in building a startup in that it would prevent many from making mistakes others who had gone ahead had made. He mentioned that there was a need to grow energy entrepreneurship locally despite the many challenges.
The second session featured a panel of experts. Dr. Vincent Kitio, Chief of Energy Urban Unit; Prof. Izael Da Silva, Director of Strathmore Energy Research Center; Maimuna, Energy Officer at Hivos, and Mr. Stephen Mutimba, Director of CAMCO. Dr. Vincent said that Kenya had good energy policies in place but the problem was in implementation. Maimuna added that the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum was working to implement sustainable energy for all. She works for Hivos which is focusing on identifying domestic and global biogas standards. Prof. Da Silva emphasized that it was important to work with government because it had capacity to do things that academia and private sector would not be able to do.
Mr. Stephen Mutimba said that the focus of renewables has been on lighting but little had been done on the use of renewables for cooking. He said that CAMCO had been working on the use of biogas for cooking but the uptake was very low.
Maimuna and Stephen added that the market for charcoal was worth 400 million US dollars. This has made it difficult for charcoal market to be burnt. The reason people use firewood and charcoal mainly due to poverty.
The UN-Habitat had been working on promoting sustainable energy. 50% of the energy is consumed in buildings. Poor designs resulted in high consumption of electricity in buildings. Dr. Vincent said he was working to promote energy efficiency in buildings in East Africa. He has a background in architecture.
He added that if it was possible to design eco-homes, homes that generated their own energy then the excess would be sold to the grid, then we would be able to address the crisis of energy by using the environment (sun and wind). He said that good building orientation saves up to 20% of the building energy.
The UN-Habitat is working to open more facilities of architecture. They are encouraging and teaching sustainable energy designs in universities in Kenya. He said that it was very sad that countries along the solar belt had less than 1% of solar.
Prof. Da Silva added that the only way to increase solar in Kenya was through capacity building which is offered in Strathmore Energy Research Center. They accredit institutions to train on solar and they test modules and inverters. Better policies around renewables should be created. The cost of lower solar devices should be lowered. He said it was difficult for people to access finance in solar hence it was difficult for them to acquire the initial investment. He added that academia needed to do more research in solar.
The UN-Habitat has documented a four hundred paged document on sustainable energy designs. You can download a copy for free from the UN-Habitat website.
iHub and the World Bank are working to form a community around the energy sector with academia, entrepreneurs, innovators, private sector and government.