United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has set up 15 pilot stand-alone community power centres (CPCs) at rural trading centres across the country as part of its Lighting-up Kenya Programme. These CPCs are community-managed electricity generating units driven by various renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydro and biomass). Until early 2011, efforts had focused on the technical and institutional aspects of establishing the centres. No technical training or other activities promoting productive use had been implemented. This provided a ready entry point to test-run several modules of the EUEI PDF / GIZ PRODUSE Manual, which was in its finalisation phase at that time.
To this end, EUEI-PDF and UNIDO jointly organised three workshops in Kenya in July 2011, with methodologies and content based on the manual’s approach:
- a one-day stakeholder workshop for representatives of government, civil society, the private sector and donors to discuss needs and to work out options for promoting productive use in Kenya;
- two-day community workshops at two selected CPCs with local community members to analyse and raise awareness of options for productive electricity use within the local economic context.
The workshops were intended to kick-start efforts at promoting productive use of electricity near the CPCs, and possibly on a broader scale throughout Kenya.
A community workshop held at a CPC site in Mutunguru in the Meru District of Kenya’s Central Province was attended by some 30 community members, while another workshop given at the CPC site n Changara in the Teso North District of Western Province drew about 50 people.
The key learning objectives were to:
- demonstrate the potential benefits of productive use of electricity for micro and small businesses, and
- identify the potential role that productive use can play to enhance the financial sustainability of the CPCs.
These workshops also conveyed to the communities the manual’s structured process of ‘viability screening’ of business opportunities that need electric power, considering economic as well as technical aspects. With a strong emphasis on interactive methods, the workshops guided participants through a comprehensive analysis of business ideas that had been brought forward by individuals and the CPC management committees.
In small groups, participants assessed:
- market opportunities
- production inputs needed
- technical requirements, and
- funding options for each productive electricity use option.
After each group had presented their assessment results, the community members were requested to give feedback on how promising they considered each business idea to be; this was done in the form of a ‘contribution pledging’ game in which participants each submitted an anonymous ballot indicating their willingness – or unwillingness - to invest in ‘shares’.
Local authorities, a representative of Kenya’s national distribution utility, and a representative from the Ministry of Industrialisation joined the workshops for the concluding sessions, not only to witnessing the communities’ enthusiasm to engage in productive use of electricity, but also to gain an impression of community needs for capacity building to actually implement the analysed business ideas.
Overall, the workshops demonstrated that while participatory viability analysis of communities’ business ideas plays a vital role in promoting productive energy use, the experience made evident that such analysis should be simple and to the point, focusing on the following key success factors:
- sustainable (local) supply and high quality of input resources and raw materials
- financing of electric equipment & machinery
- technical expertise and information about machinery, and
- market opportunities.
The workshops suggested that emergence of productive use of electricity following electrification is by no means impeded by any lack of business ideas.
Rather, the crucial bottlenecks to developing productive use of electricity seem to be:
- information on available machinery and electricity‐based production processes
- realistic assessment of market opportunities outside of the community, and
- access to financing from banks or MFIs.
Apart from these outcomes, the workshops had a strong impact on the various stakeholders involved, significantly raising their awareness of the following issues:
- the need for thorough ex-ante review of all technical and economic dimensions of seemingly straight-forward business opportunities
- productive energy users’ willingness and ability to pay for reliable electricity services
- the value of launching productive use promotion activities early in community-centred energy access programmes, and the need for a thorough analysis in preparation for equipment purchasing and technical training.
Experience from an EUEI PDF initiative in collaboration withUNIDO Kenya