Fuel retailer Nancy Kaisa has for years used solar power to light her premises at the Entasopia shopping centre in Kajiado, Southern Kenya. But recently, she started using energy from solar a mini-grid system to operate her fuel pumps and meet her other energy needs and stopped using her diesel generator as reported on Yahoo Finance
Kenya is one of the leading countries in Africa that is shifting toward solar energy use; experimentation with solar lighting is expanding into a wider use of renewable power for business as most energy experts say.
A survey of 200 users of pioneering rural solar mini-grid system found that 10% who purchased basic solar lighting and electricity now wanted to move the energy ladder and start using clean energy to make their businesses or farms more valuable and profitable.
People are already using and are familiar with solar energy products like solar lanterns and solar home panel systems. Business owners are most interested in expanding their businesses using a mini-grid clean energy system.
Courtney Blodgett, program officer of the Seattle-based company, Vulcan Impact Investing, said that consumers who are more familiar with solar technology tend to be more comfortable with mobile or pay-as-you-go systems since many solar products are sold or leased using the system across Africa. The mobile phone connection offers quick problem solving.
If the power goes out due to lack of payment, customers can make instant micro-payments using their mobile phones to have their electricity switched on.
The survey by Vulcan Impact Investing and mini-grid operator Steama.co was conducted in Kenya, where the companies operated 10 solar mini-grids between 2015 and 2016, serving more than a thousand people. This instance creates an optimistic picture that such systems can help bring renewable energy to more than 600 million people who are without access to Africa’s existing electrical grids.
The survey also found that people connected to mini-grids, usually users in rural areas not connected to the grid, stopped using kerosene or batteries as their primary source of power. 86% of customers used unsafe and unhealthy kerosene, diesel generators or disposable batteries for power prior to installation. At present, this has gone down to only 4% of customers using kerosene, generators and batteries after the grid installation.
The survey also found that the average price paid for solar energy is US$5.34 per month, while some heavy users pay as much as US$72.70 per month.
Featured Image Credit: Bilfinger SE