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Research Report

Energising local economies: Experiences of solar start-ups in Kenya’s small-scale fishing and agriculture sectors

Sarah Best
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2016
Pages: 104
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 11-16)

    Scattered along the shores of Lake Victoria are hundreds of small beaches where around a million tonnes of fish are landed every year, worth a staggering USD 550 million in total. Fishing in Lake Victoria provides livelihoods for 40,000 fishers in Kenya, and another 165,000 across the Ugandan and Tanzanian sides of the lake (LVFO, 2013). On a good day fishers, as well as artisanal processors and traders, can earn a reasonable wage. But poverty remains stubbornly high and the long-term prospects for communities are under threat as fish stocks fall due to pollution and overfishing.

    What role does energy...

  2. (pp. 17-27)

    Decentralised renewable energy could help address poor people’s productive energy needs; and also target productive activities that can make decentralised energy more viable, as it generates the means for customers to pay. There are good practice recommendations on how to address demand and supply-side barriers, particularly for electrification projects. Key elements are PUE assessments in the planning phase, targeted promotional activities toward customers and a supportive enabling environment.

    Productive use of energy (PUE). Energy access is understood here as access to energy supply and equipment that is affordable, adequate, reliable, safe and targeted at people’s actual needs.⁵ There is no...

  3. (pp. 28-34)

    The RESOLVE project aims to improve and diversify local livelihoods through installing community-run solar microgrids in six communities around Lake Victoria. It targets the need for the productive use of energy in fishing, local services and agriculture. RESOLVE has to tailor its energy service around a complex local context and PUE barriers including: fluctuating incomes; environmental and health problems; patchy collective organisation; gender inequality; a lucrative but complex fish trade; and asymmetric power relations across the value chain.

    The RESOLVE project is led by Renewable World,18 a UK-based charity working with local organisations in Nepal, Kenya and Nicaragua to support...

  4. (pp. 35-49)

    Having set the broad context and approach in Section 3, this section examines our key questions: What productive energy needs does RESOLVE target, and what barriers prevent communities/customers from using energy productively? It also looks at how RESOLVE has carried out the PUE needs and opportunity assessment.

    The communities where RESOLVE operates are off-grid; the nearest grid connection can be up to 20 kilometres away. For lighting, people typically use candles and very occasionally small solar panels or lanterns; while for cooking, they use woodfuel and charcoal. The energy situation in RESOLVE sites are standard for the region: a crosscountry...

  5. (pp. 50-58)

    RESOLVE is trying to address PUE needs and barriers through its core energy delivery model based on community ownership and additional support measures. It has used the type of promotional activities recommended in good practice, such as awareness-raising, finance support and training. It is too early to assess how effective these are, but a number of useful lessons are emerging.

    The RESOLVE partners interviewed for this research gave different reasons for why RESOLVE chose a community ownership model. At the most basic level, it is the Renewable World approach. Some interviewees argue that it creates additional benefits for communities, over...

  6. (pp. 59-72)

    There is plenty of experimentation around energy services for small-scale fishing and agriculture in Kenya. Private-sector actors are optimistic about the potential to meet productive energy needs through commercial approaches — but require grant money in the early stages to learn about the market. Many start-ups are more focused on getting core aspects of their delivery model right — in terms of pricing, technology, raising funds, maintenance and distribution — than on demand-side support measures. New ideas are emerging on the types of collaboration and pragmatic support that could encourage customers to buy their products or services.

    This chapter provides...

  7. (pp. 73-81)

    The paper has examined how RESOLVE and other renewable energy start-ups and projects are addressing productive-use needs of poor rural customers in Kenya. It has asked: What productive energy needs are being targeted and what barriers prevent communities or customers from using energy productively? And what approaches are projects taking to addressing the barriers to the productive use of energy?

    Our case studies covered a variety of technologies and services — microgrids, water pumps and multi-service energy hubs — for a range of energy needs in fish harvesting, local services like small shops, and small-scale agriculture.

    All the projects studied...