Total Kenya set to grow solar energy market

February 28, 2012
Total’s solar lamps range between Sh999 and Sh2,999/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 28 –Oil marketer Total Kenya has partnered with the German Development Corporation (GIZ) to grow its solar lighting product business in the country and improve access to solar energy for the low income population.

With a goal of increasing its market share to 15 percent of the solar market across Africa in the next 10 years, Total Kenya Managing Director Alexis Vovk said, the marketer has sold approximately 20,000 solar lamps since July 2010 in Kenya.

“The World Bank has an objective of 20 million people moving to solar in the next ten years. If the market is 20 million people we want to achieve 15 percent of this so 3.5 million people in ten years,” he said.

Globally, Total has sold 50,000 solar products in Kenya, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia with the aim of tripling this figure this year by expanding its footprint in the region.

Vovk said that there have been several challenges in penetrating the local solar market including poor distribution channels, financing and a general lack of awareness among consumers on the use and benefits of solar energy.

Total’s solar lamps range between Sh999 and Sh2,999, with one bulb costing Sh8,999.

With the project still in its fledging stages, Vovk said Total is having to balance growing business while assessing the market which has been difficult as it has to finance working capital for its dealers known as Young Resellers.

“The Business Model is to use our existing outlets, which are roughly 200 in Kenya to distribute. The Young Reseller works as an attendant in our service station, who we train to run their own business. We then equip them with transport to go and sell in remote areas,” he said.

GIZ Country Director for Kenya Hendrik Linneweber said the main role of his organization, in the two year partnership, will be to raise awareness among prospect solar energy customers and build the capacity of the solar lighting micro-enterprises involved in distributing the product.

“The corporation will be financed by our German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and we will bring our knowledge on how to target beneficiaries and monitor and evaluate success,” he said.

According to official estimates, Africa will have 700 million people without electricity by 2030, if efforts to boost energy production are not accelerated.

Currently about 16 percent of Kenyans have access to electricity, 10 percent of which are in the rural areas, which Linneweber said presents an opportunity to tap into the renewable energy potential in the country to bridge the gap.

A majority of Kenyans operating off the national grid relying heavily on firewood and kerosene to meet their energy needs that has had both environmental and health implications.

Vovk said though the solar lamps are environmentally friendly in their use of the sun as a renewable energy source, the issue will be managing the end-of-life cycle of the product.

“You might sell a lamp that could last for two or three years after which it will end up in a garbage bin. One of the key deliverables of this project is addressing this and recycling parts in an environmental way.”

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