Attracting Social Impact Investors

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

Joyce Kibet, Founder of Business Advantage presented her enterprise at the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference. With a background in international business, she is able to bring businesses up to the point where they can begin attracting social impact investors.

At the prototyping stage of new a venture she strongly cautions against investor involvement where the business owner has low competence and high commitment. Her professional advice is to first seek the counsel on a lawyer.

In addition to social impact investors, Mrs. Kibet is a strong proponent of angel investors. She champions that angel investors should receive a plan for investment and repayment terms. In the event of a business failure, Mrs. Kibet proposes that business owners should quantify their losses to get a better understanding of their successes and the challenges that need new approaches.


Building Consensus for Your Big Idea

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

Trained as an electrical engineer, Beatrice Muthoni, is a Renewable Energy Consultant. She is also the 2016 Women in Energy Awards Professional Category winner. Currently, she is working on small hydro energy projects for Kenya Tea Development Authority KTDA. At the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference she talked about selling your idea, having been part of the team that convinced an agricultural firm to transition into the power generation business to feed-in energy to the tea factories.

There are ways for women to bolster their position when building consensus in a male-dominated industry, such as the energy sector. They are:

  1. Be good at what you do—be very knowledgeable with your material. Continually better yourself at what you do that you become the go-to person
    1. Accumulate technical, social and communication skills
    2. Never stop learning
  2. Remain relevant in your field – Research changes about your field including regulatory and demographic changes
  3. Articulate the idea you need to sell well
  4. Know the key decision makers and get their buy-in
  5. Be realistic, systematic and consistent – Initially the key decision makers may not be open to your idea. Keep an open mind and listen to their opinions and incorporate their feedback in the next iteration of your pitch
  6. Power into your network

Women are Capable, Women Face Barriers and Women Rise

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

Women are capable: There are about 20 heads of state who are women. In Kenya, the number of County Governors who are women is on the rise. A growing number of business leaders of Fortune 500 companies are women. Fred Gituku, Human Resources Manager at Vivo Energy, shared these statistics with the participants of the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference to share a deeply held belief that women are capable of rising to the top.

A study in the US showed that every 30% of women in an organization may represent up to 15% profitability. Diversity is useful because dynamics changes when women are around. Empirical data shows that the different ways in which women approach risk, demonstrate empathy among many other attributes can have a positive impact to the organization.

Women face barriers: Women face discrimination and the ‘kitchen syndrome’ where it is the cultural norm for women to prepare food. What do our cultural norms say about women? To combat gender discrimination, we must step down from statistics to self. We need to ask, ‘How would I feel if it was my mother or daughter who was denied the position when she had merit?’

Women can rise: Merit, ideas and purpose do not have gender. Collaboration will produce more fruit than fighting. Share your story because it can inspire others. Have a mentor. Read. Use your networks to build the connections and relationships that will help you in the future. Get a professional coach, who can raise your self-awareness and help you recognize how you interact with your surroundings.

Merit, Tokenism and Opportunity

There are some who have reservations about legislating merit, as mandated by the Constitution of 2010. This is by no means an attempt to further discriminate against women. As a retired professional athlete who competed for Kenya, Mr. Gituku knows in international games organizers never look for regional representation. The competition is by always merit. However, if we must legislate merit, we must avoid tokenism. A board member who barely speaks will give the impression of being a token leading the rest to question his or her ability which detracts from merit. Women should be knowledgeable that people may see value and merit and understand that only an opportunity has been provided.


Women Forging Ahead in a Man’s World

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

Boni Chileshe is the Chief Executive of AECOM, a global engineering firm of 85,000 engineers in infrastructure and energy, namely nuclear, oil & gas, LPG, solar, power generation in hydro, geothermal and other renewables. He is a trained mechanical engineer and lecturer. Mr. Chileshe is a champion of women empowerment. He also supports other disadvantaged groups like black students in the UK, sponsoring some to become graduate engineers.

Woman + Energy + Opportunity + Direction (support) = infinite, endless possibilities.
Communities will reap far greater benefits by investing in women and men, than when they invest solely in men. Communities that allow women to take bigger roles in society are more advanced.

A job is getting paid to fulfil a task. A career is an occupation with direction and purpose leading to self-enhancement and self-actualization. A career begins with a job. Careers are made and progressive.

To move forward, one must have hope. However, hope is not a strategy. Hope must be followed up with a plan. A plan is useless unless until it is acted upon. Everyone needs people to support them.  Each person needs mentors and a network, to help and support them attain their hopes and plans.

Take opportunities and be fearless. Do not be afraid to take an opportunity.

Smart goals do not begin with a wish list. They begin by asking: What are the 1-3 things that will make me more effective in my current role? One needs to understand (1) how will he/she become more effective, (2) by what means will the effectiveness be measured, and (3) by whom—an accountability partner needs to be involved, (4) are the goals aligned with personal and business objectives (should be yes to both), and lastly (5) goals need start and end times as well as regular review to measure progress. The things that can make one more effective in their current role include the right experience, training that is applied, effective communication (engage & articulate), delegating and delivering efficiently.

Learn to celebrate success.

AECOM Chief Executive Advice to Students: Nanotechnology

At the 2nd Women in Energy Awards and Conference, AECOM Chief Executive Boni Chileshe strongly recommended engineering students to ensure their studies include nanotechnology. Within the circles of the British Nuclear Institute and the British Nano Society, it is believed in the future, we will transmit energy without power lines, in the same way we communicate via Bluetooth. Eng. Chileshe also advised students to take motivation from the fact that they are the future and will revamp the biggest growth market in the world, the energy sector.

Avoiding Sticky Floor and Glass Ceilings

The difference between the woman who has great potential and ability and does not succeed and the one who advances her career past her peers, beyond knowing their jobs well, is assertiveness. In many cases the former did not speak up, even when she was right.

The inability to assert oneself will hold back a brilliant woman and impede her career advancement. Being assertive does not equate to being abrasive. Mr. Chileshe advises women to speak up being mindful not to put others down. A women can successfully address a challenge she sees by asking, “Have you considered xyz?”

Mr. Chileshe’s advice to women is to put their hand up and speak up to their ability to complete the task in consideration. Generally, women reads more than their male counterparts. However, a woman’s fear that she will be perceived as being hysterical or moody can be interpreted as an inability to articulate a message. Another obstacle that holds back women and people of colour is accepting the cultural inheritance—failing to challenge job advertisements which are psychologically biased toward men, because they are generally authored by men.

At appraisals, the evaluation team may subconsciously choose to protect a woman from her male-dominated work environment rather than support her. In such situations, women can be each other’s advocates, especially when serving on promotion evaluation panels. Women can propel each other to avoid sticky floors and glass ceilings. Lastly, working mothers and primary care givers must be their own advocates for proper work-life balance.

The Value of Diversity

Women have far reaching emotional intelligence and empathy. On a board, this is seen in the way they drive the business, define success and communicate how policies are articulated. In an all-male board, things are done quickly. However, a board with gender diversity will more keenly consider the implications on its decisions. The lack of women in an organization in any industry, and not specifically in C-level suites, means a lack of the different ways of thinking which women bring to a sector in terms of aligning policies, organization, structure and benefits sharing.



Preventing Kitchen-Smoke Related Deaths and Illnesses

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference
  • Holistic human capital development and skills development
  • Mama Mboga to Energy Entrepreneur
    • Women who mostly live in rural areas and informal settlements
  • In Kenya, each month 1,000 people die from kitchen-related smoke inhalation illness
    • Mostly affects women with poor education or women who lack resources to further education
  • Every 20 mins a Kenyan child under 5 dies from kitchen smoke related pneumonia
  • In 2016, World Economic Forum ranked Kenya as 120/130 and in 2017 Kenya moved up to 78/130, improvement in the national economic development did not impact Mama Mboga
  • The population of Nairobi is over 4 million, 60% of whom live in informal settlements
  • KAM CEO recommends the use of Technical and Vocational Education and Training TVET to improve the living conditions of women living in informal settlements
    • Emphasis on learning the women’s interests either one-on-one or within church setting to determine way forward
  • In March 2016 World Bank published Kenya Economic Update with the following findings
    • Informal should not be normal
    • Majority of Kenyans, especially women and youth, are locked into low productivity wage jobs due to the limited quality jobs
  • Kinya has established a program with NITA to tackle public health issues by addressing
    • Business training, mental attitudes, cultural socialization of men and women, mechanical and automotive skills
    • Jiko (cook stoves) makers that use ethanol and LPG
  • Increase uptake of LPG gas for cooking and transition away from wood energy to safer environmentally friendly forms of energy for cooking

Measure emissions per day


Energia: Gender and Energy Research for Policy Influencing

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

Energia is the international network on gender and sustainable energy based at The Hague in the Netherlands working on gender and energy research for policy influencing. Energia was founded by women in 1996 who were working on gender and energy work in developing countries. The vision at Energia continues to be that women and men have equal and equitable access to and control of sustainable energy services as essential human rights. Information regarding Energia was presented at the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference by Dr. Mumbi Machera of the Technical Advisory Group of the Energia Gender and Energy Research Programme.

Given that 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to modern energy for daily life, Energia is committed to scaling up the delivery of energy services and products. The research company will meet its goals by strengthening women-led enterprises, advocating for gender mainstreaming in energy policy and creating the evidence base for incorporating a gender lens through its practices and research.

Currently, Energia networks and brings together 31 organizations from 18 African and Asian countries, inclusive of Kenya. Researchers from around the world are collaborating in their efforts in seven distinct research areas. Energia is guided by the following policies: empowerment and equality, inclusiveness and equality in partnership, respect for diversity, flexibility and unity, contextualization of interventions, innovation in thinking and balanced approach to themes and activities.

The Gender and Energy Research Programme will invite national, international, public and private stakeholders in mid to late 2019 to share in a forum on the programs findings. The program funded by UK Department for International Development has been ongoing since 2015. The goal is to find evidence-based research for improving the effectiveness of energy investments and understanding women needs for modern energy services through empirical research.


Opportunities as Service Providers in the Energy Sector

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

By training, Hellen Odegi is a biochemist. Four years ago she transitioned into the energy sector founding Skylon Global Company, an energy company that installs solar roofs, biogas digesters and electrical fittings. In the future, Hellen Odegi anticipates working in power generation. She is also the 2016 Women in Energy Award winner of the Community Leadership Award.

Ms. Odegi advised the participants at the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference that the energy sector is a large value chain where women can plug in at any point. While there are many large and mega projects that require huge capital investment, there are numerous simpler businesses where women can make contributions. For example, women can become service providers, installing ready-made solar systems, taking advantage of manufacturer’s warranties and guarantees for energy devices and technologies.

She added this service model can be extended to contracting professionals to provide solutions for energy parastatals, electrical installation, engineering services, construction, etc. In such businesses, women would find new business to contract registered to professionals to do actual work. All that is required is creativity and networking with seasoned veterans to help solve complex systems and problems.


Integrated Solar Cells in Roofing Tiles in the Digital Age

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

As our society has become increasingly technology dependent, energy has become a critical commodity for the way we work and play. One way Kenya can generate more power is by installing roofing tiles integrated with solar cells which are manufactured by Strauss Energy. Charity Wanjiku, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at Strauss Energy presented the two-in-one roofing tiles at the 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference. In homes, the power generating roofing tiles can generate up to 2.5 times the power required for lighting, cooking, powering digital technology such as cell phones and laptops, among many other uses.

While there are models that supply the roofing tiles with the built-in solar cells at the grassroots level, the Strauss Energy roofing tiles are best implemented during real estate development and construction. To increase the uptake of solar roofing, Strauss Energy is undertaking projects to reduce the cost of solar energy storage and transitioning from chemical batteries to more environmentally friendly options and renewable resources.

The integrated solar cell roofing technology can allow Kenya to reduce the energy gap by sharing excess power generated with neighbors. For additional value, the excess energy can be sold to the grid, following the implementation of the Net Metering Policy by the Ministry of Energy. With the additional energy, Kenya can avail more energy for manufacturing and industries at lower rates.


Community Engagement in USD 18.6 Million Hydro Dam Project

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

Patrick Kimathi, Co-Founder of Skynotch Energy Africa, is taking advantage of the energy sector policies to harness energy for grid and off-gird projects. Currently, Skynotch Energy Africa has a 7.8 MW small hydro power project in Meru valued at $18.6 million in capital investment.

Skynotch Energy Africa partnered with the community by forming a public company of 1,200 households with the shareholders in a special purpose vehicle. In the partnership, there is shared ownership and management of the hydro power project. The community is empowered to make decisions as the custodians of the resources. Skynotch Energy Africa undertook the regulatory process and acquired investment for the project. The investment in the community’s social equity is converted into money in the form of revenue sharing by selling the excess energy back to the grid through the feed-in-tariff program.

Mr. Kimathi is confident that such a project investment in energy is not restricted to persons of high net worth. Energy projects by Skynotch Energy Africa that can be replicated at the county level by women and community groups. Over time, these projects will have shorter turnaround times to generate revenue.

Partnering with Community Based Organizations to Fund Energy Projects

Public funding is directed into community development and private sector projects. Community development funds are geared to supporting the marginalized of society. Policy makers and for-profit firms can organize communities at the county level to create enterprise development and secure funding for viable business opportunities.

Skynotch Energy Africa on its own could not raise the funds to develop an energy project. Donor funds are phasing out grants in favour of output based funding, where funding is provided only after attaining agreed upon milestones. However, understanding there are donors who will fund renewable energy projects that benefit the community. On this knowledge, Skynotch Energy Africa built rapport with a community based organization CBO representing 1,200 households. Together they built capacity and set up an energy project. The CBO received the initial funding, which under the guidance of Skynotch Energy Africa, was able to complete a feasibility study to prove the viability of a small hydro power project. The feasibility study showed social impact investors that the project was worthwhile. They injected $18.6 million into the project because it made direct impact to the CBO households with revenue sharing.




Energy, Food & Water Nexus

March 16, 2018 |by | 0 Comments | Conference

The effects of climate change are evident in Kenya. In 2016, there was very little rainfall. As a result, there were commercial farmers had to close their businesses and layoff their employees. Going forward, small holder farmers who used to rely on rainfall for irrigation must adapt their farming practices rather than continue with the practices handed down over generations. Without rainfall, there is water insecurity that leads to food insecurity.

The challenges are getting direr, especially when we consider the energy, food and water nexus as presented by Caroline Makenzi, a Renewable Energy Consultant with Climate Focus. The energy, food and water nexus is a very complicated, inextricably connected relationship among energy, food and water. A changes in one of the three will often have impact to one or both of the other two. Using hydro power as an example, water is needed to grow food and create energy (hydro systems). Energy is used to move and treat water, produce food and mechanize systems. Food is used to create energy (biomass).

It is estimated that by 2030, there will be a 50% increase in food demand, 30% increase in water demand, and 50% increase in energy demand. This demonstrates a strong correlation between energy demand and the demand for food and water. With the energy, food and water nexus in mind, Kenya and the world will need creative solutions as the global population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 requiring a 60% increase in food production which will impact energy and water demand. Besides population growth, rapid urbanization and economic development also drive the demand for energy, food & water.

Mrs. Makenzi presented the energy, food & water nexus to allow 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference participants an opportunity to grasp the interlocked issues we face with respect to food security, energy security and water security and as a means to spark new solutions that address the interconnected relationship, at the county, national and global levels, and not solely from the energy perspective.

Energy Smart Agricultural Systems

Kenya is increasingly vulnerable to drought and unpredictable weather patterns resulting from climate change. On yearly trips to ‘ushago,’ rural homes, people remark on the intensity with which their home regions are drying. Energy smart agricultural system are an approach for transforming and re-orienting agricultural development under the new realities of climate. The goals of energy smart and climate smart agriculture are to increase productivity, enhance resilience, and eliminate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In Kenya, agriculture accounts for 26% of the gross domestic product GDP and employs 70% of the rural poor. Fifty percent of Kenya’s agricultural activities are done by women and children. Globally, agriculture depends on fossil fuels, whose pricing is volatile and increasing whereas the cost of renewable energy is decreasing. Solar panels and storage are increasingly more affordable. The cost per watts of installed power is decreasing. Energy smart agricultural systems improve energy efficiency, increase the use and production of renewable energy, which leads to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improved productivity, improved water efficiency and reduction of post-harvest losses and energy costs.

At the county level, Kenya has 5 million plus small holder farmers with 2-4 acres of land. Small holder farmers can join together, form a co-operative and produce one specific crop either for export or domestic sale. Post-harvest losses in themselves require energy and are one of the farmers’ biggest concerns. Using energy smart and climate smart agricultural systems, commercial and small holder farmers can use energy to add value to produce and farm products to extend the shelf life for export for transport to other counties or international export.

The Government of Kenya supports energy efficiency and renewable energy agriculture through the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy 2017-2026, Kenya Youth in Agribusiness for 2017-2021, energy efficiency and conservation regulations and renewable energy regulations through the Energy Regulatory Commission and Ministry of Energy. Kenya also partners with the USAID and the World Bank to promote renewable energy and climate smart agriculture.

Other climate smart technologies and interventions have been implemented in production systems. They use sensors to monitor the grain drying process in the greenhouses and storage. There are many opportunities for energy smart renewable interventions and technologies in the agriculture sector.

Solutions that business owners can provide value chains in tea, flower, dairy and fresh produce can include:

  • Solar water pumping
  • Embedded power systems for storage and harvest facilities such as pack houses and grading halls (for exports) where the energy feeds are slightly below the proper load using any form of energy
  • Biogas systems that can run an engine, although efficiencies can be low
  • Briquettes for water heating
  • Solar powered dryers
    • Increasing in popularity for small holder farmer groups given their high post-harvest and the high demand for dried fruit in Europe. For example, mangoes are usually in season for five months. The oversupply can be dried for export.
  • Cogeneration using agricultural waste to heat water that can be used for the drying process or other purposes within the facility
  • Replacement of wood with high calorific briquettes
    • Sugar farms give their waste for free as a means of waste management
  • Cogeneration using carbon-neutral clean biomass as opposed to nuclear technology
  • Biofuels to run trucks and generators – convert waste into biofuels to run their own companies rather than using the pumps
  • Biogas for electricity generation
  • Smart cooling systems – milk chillers to transport milk outside the county or extend the shelf life of milk

Solar powered chillers have not yet entered the Kenyan market perhaps for lack of awareness

Kenya Youth in Agribusiness Strategy of 2017-2026

Caroline Makenzi is a Renewable Energy Consultant with Climate Focus. She talked about the Kenya Youth in Agribusiness Strategy at the 2nd Women in Energy Awards and Conference. She began by describing the average Kenyan farmer. The average Kenyan farmer is 60 years old and typically takes up the profession past the age of 40, when he or she inherits the farm land. To entice Kenya’s youth to begin farming in their 20s and the 30s, Kenya has implemented the Kenya Youth in Agribusiness Strategy to simultaneously address the food security and youth unemployment.

Renewable Energy to Reduce Water Pumping Costs

In counties where agriculture is the main economic activity, women can reduce their costs by investing in solar water pumping which offers many advantages. It reduces reliance on rain-fed agriculture, improves resilience to climate change, and reduces energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

With respect to the approximately 5,000 small holder farmers with 2-4 acres of land, solar water pumping at the community level of small groups can free up resources and allow them to take on other productive endeavors. Given that the majority of small holder farmers are women, solar water pumping presents a great opportunity to get involved in energy use management at the county level.

In commercial farms, water pumping costs contribute 30%-60% of energy costs. Caroline Makenzi has undertaken 45 feasibility studies for flower farms in Kenya where she found that water pumping and refrigeration account for 90% of energy costs for commercial farms. Solar water pumping can reduce energy costs.