Kerstin Maaß, Deputy Head of Coordination Office ‘German Energy Solutions Initiative’ and Advisor to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

Exclusive interview with Kerstin Maaß, Deputy Head of Coordination Office ‘German Energy Solutions Initiative’ and Advisor to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Future Energy East Africa is honoured to welcome for the first time at the event an official German Country Pavilion in Nairobi from 17-18 September.

Let’s start with the German Energy Solutions Initiative run by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. What is the initiative all about?
The German Energy Solutions Initiative supports German SMEs tapping into foreign markets by facilitating business partnerships and know-how exchange. The aim is to foster smart and climate-friendly energy solutions focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grids and storage technologies. In addition, new energy technologies like power-to-gas and fuel cells are the basis for cutting-edge energy solutions.

The initiative also seeks to tie economic interests with international development. It is coordinated and financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The initiative offers market information, networking and business opportunities within and outside Germany; it showcases reference projects and facilitates capacity building abroad. I am deputy head of the coordination office of the initiative and we coordinate the initiative on behalf of the ministry. 

What kind of activities are you involved in Africa? 
In East Africa, the whole range of activities that we offer is being carried out. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is implementing the Project Development Programme (PDP), which focuses on developing and emerging energy markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. The PDP supports East African companies in developing their renewable energy projects. This includes i.e. project assessment and advise on suitable technological solutions as well as establishing contact to German companies that can provide those. In markets that already have a German Bilateral Chamber of Commerce (AHK), we are facilitating networking opportunities between German and African SMEs, with their help, in order to foster business cooperation.

Further, the initiative supports SMEs in realising reference projects designed to showcase “energy solutions – made in Germany”, as well as enabling them to exhibit at international trade fairs such as the Future Energy East Africa. We also offer fact-finding missions to Germany for African company representatives and decision makers. Our aim is to enable them to gather first-hand information on energy solutions by visiting reference projects and demonstration sides. 

What kind of activities are taking place for and in Kenya this year?
This year, there will be a trade mission to Kenya. It will take place from 23 to 27 September 2019 and will focus on the topic of ‘Self-supply with renewable energies in industry and municipalities’. On the conference day in Nairobi on 23 September, the delegation of German companies will present their products and services to the Kenyan audience.  Additionally, German companies will have the opportunity to inform themselves about Kenyan market and opportunities in the field of energy efficiency in an industrial context. The conference will take place in Frankfurt am Main on 27 November. This will be seen as an introduction and first step for German companies in this area and will be followed by a trade mission to Kenya in 2020.

You will bring a German Pavilion to the Future Energy East Africa in Nairobi in September. What kind of companies will be part of this stand?
We are very much looking forward to Future Energy East Africa. We will have six German companies at our stand. All of these companies are energy solution providers: we have manufacturers of solar home systems including storage solutions, project developer in wind, solar and biogas, manufacturer of water turbines, a constructor of agricultural and co-fermentation plants, and a provider of digital measurement systems.

How important is the East African market for German suppliers of renewable energy technologies and services?
The East African market is a growing and attractive market for German suppliers of energy solutions. The German Energy Solutions Initiative has therefore been focusing on the East African market for years. Over the past few years, the importance of the market has been increasing. More and more German companies are establishing offices in Kenya. 

What about African markets in general?
Even though the energy markets are still at an early stage in some of the African countries, we see enormous potential for renewable energy, as well as the possibility to establish a sustainable energy system. This is especially the case in countries where access to energy is lacking. German companies have gained a great deal of experience and know-how in this area over the years and can provide the necessary technologies and expertise. The African markets have been gaining more and more importance within the German Energy Solutions Initiative over the past years.

In your view, what challenges does renewable energy face in Africa?
Like almost everywhere, the biggest challenge is financing, especially for small-scale installations. Therefore, it is very important to develop business models that are economically viable. Through our Project Development Programme we support SMEs with the realization of reference projects and joint ventures through advisory services such as project development, marketing and training activities. Knowledge transfer and capacity building of local are also very relevant: Through technical business and management training courses for Afr