Kenya Power was in the news recently complaining that their clients are increasingly transitioning to use of solar energy.
Solar has emerged as a favourite source of power to many homeowners due to its reliability and low cost compared to electricity.
But that is not limited to homes as businesses are also embracing solar energy.
One such business is the new Café Deli branch along Koinange Street.
When the restaurant relocated from Kenyatta Avenue in September, Mr Obado Obadoh, the Managing Director and founder of Nanjala Ltd --the parent company that owns the chain of restaurants -- says he wanted to have glass roofing at his new establishment.
This, however, came with its challenges and the option turned out to be expensive since, apart from the glass roofing, they would need ultraviolet (UV) light protectors.
For humans, suntan and sunburn are familiar effects of exposure of the skin to UV light, along with an increased risk of skin cancer.
But, after consultations with experts, Mr Obado settled for solar panels.
“When we were designing the Koinange Street branch, we had experts come in and give their opinions. With the Covid-19 situation, we were also looking for ways to cut costs. With solar, we spent less money than all the other available options,” Mr Obado told the Nation.
“When the costing was done by the quantity surveyor, it came down to almost half of what we would have spent on putting up the glass roof.”
To Mr Obado, saving even a shilling means a lot and so solar was the welcome option.
“At the Kenyatta Avenue (branch), the cost of electricity per month was between Sh250,000 and Sh280,000. Based on the plan we have, we will use Kenya Power as a backup. This means we will save close to Sh140,000 which is half of what we used to pay before,” he said.
Mr Omondi Lumbe, the electrical contractor who was in charge of the project, says he installed 96 panels on the roof that coves 250 square meters.
“The panels produce close to 33 kilowatts per hour and are in use for eight hours a day, hence produce close to 264 kilowatts daily,” said Mr Lumbe, who is a partner at Kev & Lum Construction and Electrical Company Ltd.
To avoid more spending, they opted to use solar power directly instead of using batteries to store more energy.
Today, Café Deli only relies on Kenya Power services for between three and four hours, which is mostly at night when the solar panels are off.
“We are only using Kenya Power at night for three to four hours. That means solar power will be used for most of our 12 hours,” Mr Obado said.
He also has plans to install the solar panels at his other branches on Moi Avenue and Nkurumah Lane, Behind Kencom in Nairobi’s Central Business District.
This is, however, not the first time the businessman is opting to go the solar power route.
Six years ago, when he wanted to install electricity at his rural home in Busia, he says he was slapped with a quotation of Sh800,000.
“I thought about it and wondered why I would pay such a high figure, buy a transformer which is going to be Kenya Power’s property, and still pay them every month. I settled for solar panels and it’s a decision I don’t regret,” he said.
According to Mr Obado, the high cost of power in Kenya has rendered businesses uncompetitive compared to other countries in East Africa.
Café Deli has joined several companies, universities and factories that have turned to solar power and, in the process, cut operational costs.
This, according to Kenya Power, has dealt a blow to their already dwindling finances.
“The company operated in a challenging environment over the financial year under review, where demand growth at 3.7 per cent remained below the projected level of five per cent. The dampened demand growth is further compounded by increased threats of grid defection by the industrial category as decentralised renewable energy options are becoming more available and cheaper," Kenya Power revealed in its latest annual report.