Kenya Living Lab
Kisumu & Homa Bay Counties
Western Kenya is a key development region for Kenya providing a gateway to the rest of the East African region. One of its greatest natural resources, Lake Victoria, is the largest freshwater lake in Africa and a key source of livelihood for the rural and urban communities adjacent to it.
The Lake is an important revenue earner for the country as a huge proportion of fish distributed in Kenya is sourced from the lake and some irrigated farming is also dependent on it. The agricultural and fishing sectors dominate as key income drivers.
In addition, there is a large number of micro and small businesses, mostly consisting of market trade, small retail products, artisanal services, small scale construction and transport as well as some larger wholesale outlets.
More than 40% of the local population live below the poverty line with many facing the challenge of poor access to affordable electricity, dependence on fossil fuel energy, unemployment, and lack of clean drinking water.
The initial living lab concept will be implemented in Western Kenya in a rural (Homa Bay) and urban (Kisumu) context. This will be realised through two self-sustaining solar hubs with the aim of achieving an integrated system for:
● Sustainable energy access: Partners will co-develop two project sites, design and construct one Solar Hub at each site.
● Productive use of energy: Partners will co-develop the business models, set up and demonstrate different user cases for productive use at the solar charging hubssuch as pumping and purification of drinking water, charging and leasing of fishing lanterns,solar cooling and drying for local fish value chain, battery pack rental for business.
● Circular economy: Energy storage and re-use- Local innovators will be engaged to develop components of the innovations such as the electric two wheelers, solar mini grids including charging stations and second life appliances of lithium battery cells.
Facts & Figures
*Estimated number of households
**Average household size
The main objective is to develop a modular demonstration project to provide sustainable energy access solutions that are relevant for validation and replication in both urbanised and rural contexts in Africa, creating opportunities to generate sustainable off-grid electricity, with sector linkages such as cooking, lighting, fishing, water pumping, mobility and waste management, and combining energy solutions with local Info Spots for access to information, on energy, climate change and digital skills.
Access to electricity has increased in recent years as a result of the Kenyan government’s various efforts to expand the national grid and improve last-mile connectivity. However, the high cost of electricity imposed on consumers, as well as the high cost of connecting to unreliable and unstable electricity grids, has proven to be a barrier to grid connectivity for residents with low incomes in peri urban and rural communities.
Many people in rural communities are cooking with firewood as it is cheap and relatively available in some areas. Others, particularly in towns and peri-urban communities, cook with charcoal, which is more expensive and few cook with LP gas. The firewood and charcoal are not environmentally friendly and expose those cooking to hazardous fumes. Searching for firewood also exposes girls and women to potential sexual harassment. Gas is only available in bigger settlements.
Solar lights are becoming increasingly common for use in homes and small businesses, particularly where grid power is not physically accessible or is unaffordable. One challenge in the solar lighting market is low-quality lights sold very cheaply, some as poor or counterfeit immitations of brand lights.
Many omena fishermen use small bulbs attached to a motorcycle, lead-acid battery for their fishing lights. A few still use kerosene pressure lamps, but these are no longer common. Ugandan authorities seem to have a particular problem with WeTu fishing lights, which affects Kenya fishermen who fish close to the border or even within Ugandan waters.
There are just a few companies working with e-mobility solutions in the region. Power Hive has an e-mobility project in Kisii County with electric motorbikes and a few electric three-wheelers as well. Kisumu County and Kenya Power and Lighting Co. have introduced electric motorbikes for some county officers and meter readers in Kisumu.
Other than these two initiatives, there is essentially no company promoting the use of electric vehicles in the region. Nearly all vehicles are driven by petrol or diesel engines and even the level of awareness of the development of electric vehicles is very low.
A number of companies have developed solar powered pumps for small scale irrigation. These are continuing to gain in popularity and usage. However, the general level of uptake is still relatively low in the Nyanza Region of western Kenya. There is a lot of potential for expansion and development in the sector.
There is currently no project or company promoting the safe processing of electronic waste in the region. Electronic wastes are generally dumped and some component parts removed in informal and hazardous conditions. Waste management is largely informal and dominated by informal sector players.
The region’s dominant economic activities are fishing and subsistence farming. Despite favorable climatic conditions, agricultural productivity remains low due to the use of traditional farming methods as well as cultural practices of generational land subdivision, which has resulted in the dominance of small land holdings with limited agricultural activities.
In terms of fishing, hazardous fishing methods such as the use of non-compliant fishing nets, kerosene lamps, and lead acid battery powered lamps have resulted in declining fish stocks and lake pollution.
Climate change information and energy monitoring services can be delivered more efficiently, flexibly, and reliably if they are built on an appropriate ICT platform.
There is advanced mobile phone technology available, such as 4G and 5G, which are established global standards for mobile connectivity and allows remote control, operation, and monitoring of systems and appliances. Blockchain and IoT are rapidly evolving, presenting new opportunities for optimized energy performance and innovation for remote monitoring system performance of the mini grid, real-time customer payments, climate change and health messaging dissemination.
The main issue is that current off-the-shelf solutions are not designed or are unsuitable for rural and peri urban environments, and they are prohibitively expensive.
Establishment of self-sufficient rural and -peri urban solar energy hubs that provide affordable and inclusive access to renewable energy for communities that cannot afford electricity from the main grid.
Innovative business models with sharing and circular economy approaches for the different user cases, enabling the diversification of the economic base by making it possible for rural communities to own, deepen and move beyond traditional economic activities.
Development of new innovative products: lithium-ion battery packs for household and business use cases, solar cooling solutions (ice and cold storage for fish and agriculture products), solar fish drying services, locally manufactured electric vehicles (two wheelers), appliances for agricultural use, solar water pumping, state of the art water filtration systems, biogas/waste-to-energy for clean cooking and e-waste management.
Knowledge documentation, generation and dissemination of innovative practices within a developing context by working hand-in-hand with academic and industrial partners as the innovations are implemented.