On the morning on June 27, 2017 in the beautiful city of Nairobi , the two-day Africa Solar + Energy Storage conference got underway at the LAICO Regency hotel in the City Centre. It attracted most of the big names in the Solar energy and energy storage domains in the region, writes Ronald Egesa.
The welcome address was delivered by Mark Carrato, the Economic Growth Diretor of USAID and it set the tone for the rest of the speakers on the day – solar energy is a serious alternative and energy storage is vital for the future.
The first day of the conference saw presentations from Taylor Ruggles of the US Department of State on the Accelerated adoption of Renewable Energy in Africa will be conditioned by and Realised through a 21st Century Policy and Regulatory Framework, Peter Mungai Kinuthia from Kenya Power on Opportunities for Renewable Energy Projects in Mini/Off-Grids in Kenya, Dr. Lugano Wilson of Tanzania Electric Supply Company on Eastern Africa’s Energy Sector -TANESCO’s role and vision, Michele Porri of Enel Green Power on Lessons learned from “Powered by Enel”, Juan Garcia Montes of ENGIE on The Rise of Distributed Power Generation and Energy Storage in Africa, Daniel Davies of Solarcentury on The Revolution of Africa’s Energy Supply -Battery Storage System, Paul Keurinck of Urbasolar on Case Study: Red Land Roses Solar Power Plant in Riuru Kenya. Shashank Verma of Energy 4 Impact on Mini-Grid Risks and Challenges in East Africa, Ravinder Sikand of Energy Access ventures on eefective business modes for developing renewable energy in Eastern Africa, Kabengele Bredt of Fichtner GmbH on storage to solve Africa’s energy poverty and Kushagra Nandan of SunSource Energy on developing Africa’s Power sector – Strategic Energy Resource Planning from IPP’s view.
Speaker after speaker, it became clear that solar technology and battery storage technology is becoming cheaper in the face of the ever-increasing needs for energy globally coupled with the improvements in technology. According to Daniel Davies of Solarcentury, a leading manufacturer of solar panels for commercial rooftops, ground and homes; solar energy holds the potential for the low-cost electrification of Africa. It also became increasingly clear at the conference that most of the players in the energy storage sector have the telecommunications and transportation industries as their biggest customers. The demand for energy storage by telecommunication companies is well documented with Nigeria alone posting a demand of up to 60,000 batteries for her telecommunication sector.
Enterprise Growth Services, a division of the international Audit firm Ernst & Young was represented at the conference by a Senior Manager, Jessie Coates from their UK office. Speaking to our correspondent, Jessie explained that Enterprise Growth Services is a division of Ernst & Young that works with small and growing businesses in health, education, clean and renewable energy at very low (discounted) rates to enable the businesses to receive the top-notch consulting services of the firm, which they would otherwise not have been in position to pay for. Jessie adds that this is a kind of Corporate Social Responsibility move by Ernst & Young. On projects of clean and renewable energy, like in the other sectors, EY’s Enterprise Growth Services works through impact investors and this has shown promising results in the Eastern African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.
The reduction in cost of embracing solar energy is much welcome, given that one of the challenges to adoption of solar technology has been the high costs of acquiring the technology. According to Tsingkov Zhang, of Topray Solar from China, who was also present at the conference, countries like Uganda are still lagging behind in advancement and adoption of solar energy due to the limited financing available to the sector. Mr. Peter Mungai from Kenya Power however notes that Kenya as a country has enjoyed a good relationship with international funders that include the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He hastens to add that the management of these funds from the international partners is strict and there are few cases of corruption when compared to locally funded projects.
One can say that that conference organisers, the Leader Group (leaderxtet.com) did not only assemble a team of the leading players, but also arranged for cocktail party to crown up Day One of the conference.