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Partnership promises clean energy for off-grid Kenyans

A new partnership has been unveiled aiming to expand clean energy accessibility and tackle unsustainable battery waste in Kenya by repurposing old battery packs.

Project partners include Aceleron, the UK developer of sustainable and reusable battery solutions, and Total Access to Energy Solutions (TATES), both of which are committed to providing off-grid Kenyans with cleaner and more affordable power.

The first stage of this unique project will see Aceleron convert TATES and its partners’ waste lithium-ion battery cells into repairable, upgradable and affordable long-cycle reusable battery packs to bring cleaner power to more than 800 people in off-grid communities across Kenya and the surrounding area including Benin, Rwanda and Libya.

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TATES will provide lithium-ion waste material from its solar lanterns scheme – a project providing light to Kenyans without electricity access and with low incomes. It will also use its network to encourage other companies to contribute their battery waste to the project.

“Bringing affordable and clean power to off-grid communities is powerful – it enables education, grows livelihoods and builds economies,” said Dr Amrit Chandan, CEO of Aceleron.

Chandan continued: “Our mission is to ensure the global shift to clean energy benefits everyone, with more sustainable battery storage technology that is accessible to all.

“Sustainability is about more than just emissions; it’s about improving people’s lives. Our circular-economy approach delivers lithium-ion batteries that work better, last longer and are cheaper. We are making clean power an option for off-grid Kenyans, making a real impact to their lives by giving access to clean electricity while also reducing carbon emissions.”

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has committed the country to be entirely powered by renewable energy by 2020 and more than 70% of electricity is already delivered by renewable sources. However, the transformational benefits of access to clean power have not spread to the majority of Kenyans, with more than 80% of people still off-grid.

Circular economy in action

The battery packs made primarily with electronic waste material provided by TATES will deliver are 10 times more efficient than unsustainable lead acid batteries commonly used in Kenya, lasting three times longer for the same price. This means they are affordable enough to enable off-grid rural communities to benefit.

Aceleron’s batteries will give more Kenyans access to clean electricity, enabling off-grid communities to store and benefit from renewable power while supporting the continued decarbonisation of Kenya.

The initial £51,000 ($66,000) project is delivering second life batteries at $45 per unit – just $6.5 a year over each battery’s seven year lifespan. This compares to lead acid batteries in Kenya that cost $12 a year and last just three years.

All about sustainability

A major motivation for Aceleron’s founders, Dr Chandan and Carlton Cummins, is to make batteries more sustainable and tackle the growing mountain of battery waste in Kenya and across the world. Less than 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled and the world is expected to generate two million tonnes of waste batteries every year by 2030.

TATES quality team claims that: “Our business generates some electronic waste and we try to identify recycling solutions that allow us to reduce both the environmental and societal impact of our products. In addition, waste treatment also supports economies through job creation.”

Aceleron is committed to maximising the social impact of its technology and its experts are already training local technicians in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. This is supporting an emerging green energy market and empowering local people with skills to benefit from the growth of local clean energy.

This training is creating a local workforce that can service and repair batteries on site, rather than throwing them away. The team has already assessed 5000 waste batteries, found that 4,500 were usable and produced 150 second life battery packs.

The project with TATES will run until 2021 and Aceleron is already planning to scale its work to other countries. The company has secured interest from partners across sub-Saharan Africa, including in Nigeria, Liberia, Malawi and Zambia.

It also plans to explore new business models to further increase the accessibility of battery technology, such as leasing large scale batteries to businesses and communities.