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Geoffrey Ronoh: Lighting up Kenya


Geoffrey Ronoh, a researcher the Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) was recently appointed to head the Solar Power for Houses and Businesses Policy Advisory Committee (SPHBP) committee hosted by National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI). The work of the committee will add efforts to the 7th Sustainability Development Goal: affordable and clean energy.

One of the key mandates of the committee is exploring ways of encouraging more people to embrace solar for their own use as well as contributing to the power needs of the country. Geoffrey brings on board extensive experience having been involved in the development of the 600kW Solar PV project implemented around the Strathmore campus.  This project now caters for all the electricity needs of the University while excess power is sold to the national grid.

According to a report by GOGLA, global association for the off-grid solar energy industry, in 2019, the off-grid solar industry provided energy to over 100 million people around the world, with sales of 4.4 million off-grid solar lighting products and 460,000 appliances in the last six months of 2019 alone.

In East Africa progress has been made; in the same year, 8.6 million kerosene lanterns were put out of use after consumers replaced them with solar lighting. We spoke to Geoffrey on his vision for the committee and his dream to light up Kenya with solar powered energy.

Who is Geoffrey Ronoh?

I am a solar PV and thermal enthusiast. Apart from the Strathmore Solar PV project, I was also involved in the establishment of the SERC solar training and testing lab. I am one of the founding consortium members of the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre and co-founder of OFGEN Limited, a locally based solar project development entity focusing on the commercial and industrial market segments. To date, the company has implemented over 5 MW of Commercial & Industrial embedded generation projects in East Africa.

What sparked your interest in renewable energy?

I grew up without reliable access to electricity and I’m well versed with the challenges that come with that. I also realized the immense treasure we have in the sun rays beating down on us in Kenya, a natural resource that we need to take full advantage of. This spurred me on to study an MSc. in Sustainable Energy and Entrepreneurship from the University of Nottingham. I have a background of BSc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nairobi.

Making solar energy accessible to more people will contribute towards greater access to education and better health especially among young girls and mothers. With improved lighting at home, children will be better placed to do homework, study and keep up with their counterparts in urban areas.

What is your vision for this committee?

The committee hosted by NACOSTI, comprises of  select energy stakeholders from public and private universities as well as public sector entities in the research and energy sectors. From our sessions which we are currently holding through virtual platforms, our vision is to deliver a policy brief that will be used to make a difference in the energy sector: increase solar power penetration and spur entrepreneurship through productive use of solar energy.

How much would it cost to power a house with solar energy in Kenya?

The beauty with solar PV technology is that it’s scalable. Pico-PV systems are available for as low as Kshs. 3,000 as a one-off cost or better still, through Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) for as low as Kshs. 30 per day.

Solar home systems are in the range of  Kshs. 100,000 and could reach up to Kshs. 2 million depending on what it is used for. The high cost of installation is the main hindrance towards the penetration of solar power in the country as not many Kenyans find this financially accessible. However, in the long run, it is more affordable.

What are the advantages of solar power?

Solar energy is clean, democratic, flexible and a scalable resource.  By virtue of its on-site production and consumption, it reduces transmission and distribution losses.  In combination with battery storage technologies, it provides a firm and stable source of energy.

Kenya is among the leaders of solar power penetration and has a well-established renewable energy sector. However, kerosene lamps, which a large population in rural areas heavily rely on as they are not connected to the main grid, are still largely in use. These bring about negative impact to the environment and health of the users: poor lighting, air pollution, and are a fire hazard. Solar power would reduce these negative effects through provision of clean energy.


The article was written by Wambui Gachari.


Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu