In the Kalobeyei Settlement and host community town, ESDS Kenya supported the Covid-19 response measures of the local authorities by connecting facilities to the two existing mini-grids. In total, 3 health facilities, providing medical serivces to refugees and host community, 4 schools, earmarked as isolation centers, and one horticultural farm run by WFP which sustains the food supply, were connected to the mini-grids. While these measures serve as immediate contribution to efforts to contain the pandemic, they also improve the energy services in Kakuma long-term wise and align with the broader objective of ESDS.
Mini-Grid in Kalobeyei.Source: Renewvia Energy
The Kakuma Refugee Camp and the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, located in Turkana County at the north-western border of Kenya, currently host close to 200,000 refugees from Eastern and Central Africa. Albeit donors and humanitarian organizations installed mini-grids and the nearby Kakuma town is connected to a sub-station of the national grid, only 5% of households in the camps had reliable access to electricity in 2019 according to UNHCR, while many systems, including the sub-station, run on diesel-Generators.
As part of its efforts facilitate the market-entry of private sector actors in providing sustainable energy, GIZ’s EnDev Project supported the installation of two mini-grids in the Kalobeyei Settlement Village 1 and Host Community Town in cooperation with national and local authorities and UNHCR. The mini-grids are run by a private company on a self-sustaining business model and provide electricity for households from the refugee and host community, SMEs and social institutions at a tariff close to the national level. It does not include any anchor-client or offtake agreement. This was achieved by offering a grant to cover a portion of the capital investment and Results-based Financing (RBF) to the operating company. Since September 2019, both mini-grids are operational.
They consist of PV-panels, inverters, charge controllers and batteries that provide 60kWp with 120kWh storage in the settlement, and 20kWp with 60kWh storage in the host town. A 100kVA diesel-generator serves as back-up for the mini-grid in the settlement and was sized based on estimated consumption patterns. All demand sites in the settlement are spread around 4km², with the distribution lines extending to Xkm and covering mostly customers in proximity to the mini-grids. The operating company installed meters to measure their consumption which are read on a digitally/monthly basis and paid in cash/mobile money. In the initial operation period average monthly electricity consumption of settlement and host town households experienced a nearly six-fold rise in and stands currently for both at around 6kWh. This shows the contribution of the mini-grids to improve the energy access of previously excluded populations.
Given this success, ESDS Kenya, acting complementary to EnDev, is commissioned to facilitate the expansion of the mini-grids into the Villages 2 and 3 of the Kalobeyei Settlement. This takes place in close coordination with the Turkana County government and serves its Kalobeyei Integrated Socio-Economic Development Plan (KISEDP). As market-studies by EnDev suggested that the majority of refugee households cannot afford the current, already subsidized tariff, financing schemes are being explored as support measures to reach a broad consumer base. As a second pillar of its activities, ESDS Kenya assists UNHCR in its transition towards a cleaner energy supply by supporting the solarization of the infrastructure of the facilities it maintains in Kalobeyei and Kakuma.
However, the outbreak of COVID-19 necessitated an adjustment to these plans: With the objective to provide immediate and high-impact support to Kalobeyei’s inhabitants, ESDS Kenya prioritized the connection of facilities to the mini-grids that reinforce response measures to the pandemic. This included 3 health facilities, 2 in the settlement and one in the host town, 4 learning institutions in the settlement that serve as isolation centers, and a WFP horticultural farm that sustains the food supply.
These measures improve the preparedness of the Kalobeyei Settlements and Host Community Town to COVID-19 and are being/could be completed despite the restrictions on movement and interaction put in place by authorities. With the first infection reported on 25th May 2020 in Kakuma and Kalobeyei, the connected facilities take a significant role in curbing the spread of the virus and keeping the situation under control.
Notwithstanding the fact that the mini-grid connection of the facilitates took place under light of the pandemic, the impact of these activities goes beyond it. The electricity-access of the facilities improves health care services and offers learning opportunities for refugee and host community households that enhance the quality of life for the inhabitants of Kalobeyei.
In subsequent steps, ESDS Kenya will work towards sustaining the operation and maintenance of the distribution lines with private sector involvement and refocus its attention to upscaling the mini-grids by connecting additional customers in the other villages of the settlement and making the electricity more affordable.