Powerhive Pilot II - 12
Powerhive to become Kenya’s first privately licensed power utility in September

In East Africa, Kenya’s power sector will see a change to the utility scene when Powerhive “becomes the first private company in Kenya’s history to receive a utility concession to generate, distribute, and sell electricity to the Kenyan public.”

With headquarters in California, Powerhive East Africa, a solar microgrid company, was granted permission earlier this year by the Kenyan state to provide electricity to rural communities in the Kisii and Nyamira counties, Reuters reported.

Rural electrification

The increased power supply has enabled local communities to develop small businesses and skills in agriculture including maize milling, welding, incubating chickens and hair styling.

The technology venture company’s off-grid metering and control solutions division has been running pilot projects for two years across four different villages in Kenya’s Kisii Province—90% of the population in this area live off grid.

The pilot electrification projects have successfully supplied locally generated power to over 1,500 people with a total generation capacity of 80kWh.

Powerhive co-founder and vice president for business development, Rik Wuts said: “Our goal … is in line with that of the government—we want to connect and provide reliable service to as many rural communities as possible.”

Supporting partners

The Berkley-based company received financial and technical support from solar photovoltaic (PV) energy company First Solar, enabling the technology venture to efficiently supply locally generated power to Kenya’s west Kisii Province.

In May, Powerhive said in a statement that through the pilot programme, First Solar’s module technology was deployed with Powerhive’s metering and control platform.

Customers are able to pre-purchase electricity for commercial and residential use through mobile banking services.

Reducing cost of solar PV

According to the solar microgrid company it is close to bringing down the cost of microgrid power which is close to that of conventional base load power.

Wuts told Reuters that: “In many places in the developing world, the cost of (main) grid extensions is simply too high to be feasible.

“The cost decline in solar and (power) storage will continue bringing off-grid generation costs ever closer to grid levels, and we have developed innovative technology to optimise the cost of distribution and the design of the distribution systems.”

Growing the market

Pavel Oimeke, director of renewable energy at the Energy Regulatory Commission said that the decision to bring Powerhive into the market is “a win-win development for Kenya that will allow more people to access electricity and make the industry more competitive.

“If they make a good business case, we can expect more players to come on board and help connect more people.”

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