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Solar energy project aims to leave no one behind


A landmark project by the Kenyan government to provide solar energy through cash transfers to over a million Kenyans in 47 counties kicked off last April with a pilot project in Kilifi and Garissa counties – two of the most deprived counties in Kenya.

Integrated into the country’s social protection programme, this initiative is aimed at ensuring that the most vulnerable people in the country are not left behind in adopting the use of solar energy and accessing basic services.

The pilot is funded by the Swedish government and UNICEF who support the government’s ambition to achieve universal energy access and reduce poverty by 2020.

Trisha DiGiovanni, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Kenya, who attended the launch ceremony said:

All people in Kenya should have access to basic services, energy is one of them. Those who would not otherwise have access to energy now have it to better their life because it is their right.

Energy 4 Impact has been contracted to design the pilot which involves testing how improving the affordability of solar lanterns and home systems impacts the recipients’ sense of ownership and enhances the quality of life and opportunities for school age children and their families.

“In partnership with The Busara Center for Behavioural Economics and Somali Aid we have identified 1,500 households, beneficiaries of the government’s Social Cash Transfer Programmes. We are testing how cash top ups to these existing cash transfer programmes can be used by vulnerable people to access solar products,” explained Caroline Toroitich, Project Manager, Energy 4 Impact.

Dama Chengo Kombe, 36, is one of the project’s beneficiaries along with her son Alii Chengo Mjomba, 15. They live in Dhaladho village, Midoina sub location, Kilifi County and benefit from the government’s cash transfer to orphans and vulnerable children programme. Dama’s households had relied on a kerosene tin lamp for lighting which limited the time her son could study at home. But now through the pilot’s cash top up they have acquired a solar kit which will not only light up Alii’s evening study and improve his school performance, but will also enable Dama to generate income by charging phones for neighbours.  

Traditional aid models, in which solar systems are given away for free, have led to market distortion and even leakage, in which systems are sold for cash after the programme ends. The pilot project in Kilifi and Garissa has developed and is testing conditional cash transfer to enable access to solar energy without distorting the wider market for the solar system providers.

We are testing the effectiveness of a number of payment models in driving the beneficiaries’ sense of ownership towards the products, use of the products, their perceived value, and the repayment rate. At the same time we are conducting communications campaigns to influence the beneficiaries’ perceptions of the value of the products and minimise the risk of non-repayment or leakage, which is crucial to developing a functioning energy market, 

said Caroline Toroitich.

Anna Jardfelt, Swedish Ambassador to Kenya, speaking at the launch ceremony said that after a long selection process aimed at ensuring that they reach out to the poorest people, hopes were high that vulnerable families will get a new lease of life, and school going children will be able to study at night using solar power.