Africa, Energy, and Me

I finally landed in Nairobi last night after about 20 hours of travel. I am mostly here for a family vacation but am hoping to be able to do some general observation and research about how people use energy here, especially off the grid. I’ve already had the opportunity to talk to one Kenyan today about how people in the slums, where about 70% of Nairobi’s population live, get access to electricity.

This man told me that the most common thing was for people to install solar panels on the top of their houses. He comes from the north of the country and was planning on doing the same thing for his family home there. It was going to cost him about 20,000 Kenyan shilling (about $250 U.S.) for the panels and an additional 15,000 shilling ($190 U.S.) for wiring in his home, a battery to store the energy, and the labor to install it all. People get loans for this from their employers, who automatically deduct it from wages or occasionally from banks if you can prove you have the steady income to pay it back. From this setup you can power a TV, radio, some lights, and charge your cell phone but you can’t run a fridge or stove. For those items you need a stronger more steady current. A few people in these areas are able to run diesel generators but those are considered pretty expensive and beyond the means of most individuals.

Tomorrow I head off on a safari so I may not be able to get reliable enough internet to post on a regular basis for the next few weeks.  I’m coming back through Nairobi on January 14 before heading home.   Does anybody have suggestions for organizations in the city addressing energy poverty that I should check out?

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