“Given that costs will continue to go down, I see the off-grid space taking more shape in an unexpected manner in our cities”

Pierre_TelepPierre is a panelist at the upcoming EAPIC in the session on “Bridging the gap between the offgrid and ongrid world”.

1) Let’s start with some background on GIZ and projects that you are involved in in East Africa?
GIZ offers customized solutions to complex challenges. We assist the German Government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation. In the region we are implementing a number of bilateral cooperation projects ranging from security and peace, sustainable infrastructure to good governance and social development. We are active on the field of energy, supporting policy and regulatory efforts to achieve economically optimal pathways in the generation mix with the end goal to enhance energy access rates.

2) What are the challenges to getting power projects off the ground in the region?  And renewable projects in particular?
One of the biggest challenges for investors and developers is the lack of comforting structures that come with an enabling environment. There are policies in place and to some extend regulations, issues which we are working on. On this journey we need frameworks which will be workable for the private sector and also politically sound for the public sector. Finding this balance and framing it is a complex exercise. While it’s generally admitted that investors are a useful component to the society because they create jobs and opportunities, it’s often forgotten that investment is driven by profitability. On the other hand investor’s short term bottom line is not the only thing that matters, there are social challenges on the way. So there is a balance to find between a bit of liberal thinking and a bit of social responsibility as we frame our policies and regulations.

3) How investor friendly is the region?
Having been active in the energy sector in East, West and Central Africa in the past 10 years I can say there are challenges and opportunities here and there. However, the general climate for doing business is well improved in East Africa. Kenya is a good example in sub-Saharan Africa where qualified labour is rather pleased to stay or return home, this is an opportunity for investors.

4) You are a panellist in the programme at EAPIC during the discussion on “bridging the gap between the off-grid and on-grid world”. What will be your message at the event?
Five years ago in Berlin a global player in the power industry felt challenged as I predicted “grid-less electricity”. It looked as a fiction back then. Today we are all seeing these fundamental changes happening and affecting utilities business models. More, the trend for off-grid is now being inflated by the competition on energy storage systems. When we talk of off-grid today, most people still see the far remote areas where the grid has not yet arrived. Because it’s difficult to imagine cost parity with the grid today with systems having storage. Costs are not always the only drivers for going green, reliability and independence are not to be forgotten. But given that costs will continue to go down, I see the off-grid space taking more shape in an unexpected manner in our cities. We need to prepare and be ready to grab this unavoidable opportunity.

About Pierre Telep: He advises the Government of Kenya on energy matters on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. He has worked in the past 10 years across the energy value chain, with credentials on development, engineering and deployment of power generation and distribution businesses, including operational leadership of energy organizations. He has been active in the area of decentralized power systems and integrated utilities where he has developed and implemented new technologies for systems sizing, metering and operations. Pierre holds a Master of engineering degree from Ecole des Mines in France.