For many years now, Global Nature Fund (GNF) has worked with various partner organisations in different countries on solutions to replace the widely used kerosene lamps that are a risk to the environment as well as the health of the people, with user friendly solar lamps. Against the background of a successful pilot project realised at Lake Victoria in Kenya by the Germany based company OSRAM and supported by Global Nature Fund, the European Union has approved a project application for the installation of five new and innovative so called "Water-Energy Hubs" (WE!Hubs). The project will be realised in Kenya and receives a grant in the framework of the ACP-EU Energy Facility. In addition to the three pilot "Hubs" these new solar stations are meant to provide renewable energy services to people in remote parts of Kenya without a reliable grid or with no electricity infrastructure at all.
A central objective of the project is to provide clean and environmentally friendly generated electrical energy and drinking water to people in areas with an insufficient infrastructure. Astonishingly, the solar powered lamps are not only cleaner and safer, but even cheaper for the people in Kenya than the commonly used kerosene lanterns. Another advantage of the innovative project is that the user does not have to buy the lamp, but will rent the whole system for a small deposit. The price of kerosene has risen dramatically over the recent years. But the solar lamps do not only help save money; they also help to protect the environment and the climate, offer new income opportunities and possibilities for education. Furthermore the solar lamps avoid health risks from fume inhalation and skin contamination as well as fires. Beyond access to electricity and water, the project partners want to strengthen local entrepreneurship and create income and employment opportunities.
The WE!Hubs provide lamps, batteries and charging stations for mobile phones. The latter are doubly important because mobile phones have in the last few years taken on a crucial role in all banking transactions in rural Kenya (Mpesa system). Furthermore, the Hubs will provide clean drinking water to fight water borne diseases. The energy saving lamps will be used with batteries charged in an environmentally friendly way using solar power. The lamps will be used predominantly in lake fishing, household lighting and small shops. The Hubs are also equipped with a water purification system to allow the supply of clean water, which also helps make the most of the solar energy during peak times. Internet cafes that give the local population access to communications are also planned. Three of the five planned Hubs will be built at Lake Victoria, the other two closer to Nairobi.
Activities in 2011
The project officially started in July 2011. The project partners and the donors visited the existing Hubs as well as sites for the new buildings. While the new WE!Hubs are being built, the three existing solar stations in Mbita, Sindo and Nyandiwa will be renovated and equipped with modern battery and light technology.
The new project will run for three years. In addition to the EU Delegation to Kenya, the project will be supported by the Siemens Stiftung, which is committed to social entrepreneurship and the provision of basic water and energy services. OSRAM will continue accompanying the project as a technology partner in a supportive and advisory capacity. The technical implementation of the project lies in the hands of two Kenyan companies, Thames Electricals Ltd. and its subsidiary Light for Life Ltd. GNF will be coordinating the venture. The project is realized through a social business approach. That means that all revenues will be reinvested in the project. But a social enterprise is not only limited to the reinvestment of profits. The support of other new social projects to improve the local living conditions around the core business is an integrative part of the approach. The Siemens Stiftung will support these developments to promote more entrepreneurs and push potential projects in the fields of education, culture and basic services.