Kenya’s Energy Storage Market Showing Promise

The increasing uptake of renewable energy technology in East Africa has created additional opportunities for various energy storage solutions especially batteries, as the market looks to an era of low emissions and reliable clean energy supply for off-grid consumers.

Kenya is among the region’s markets that “presents the most promising outlook for development of battery storage business opportunities” according to the Germany international development company GIZ.

The market is generally dominated by lead acid battery options as the preferred storage according to Prof Izael Pereira Da Silva, the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Nairobi-based Strathmore University.

“The lead acid battery is more preferred in the market for the off-grid systems,” he told Renewable Energy World.

Although he could not immediately confirm which of the commonly used lead acid batteries- flooded, absorbent glass mat (AGM) and gel batteries, are dominant in the Kenyan market, Da Silva said the cost of many renewable technology systems “have come down so much that many hotels are now phasing out gensets and adopting PV systems, thereby saving money and reducing pollution and noise.”

The hotel industry, especially hotels in off-grid areas, are the target of battery suppliers in Kenya because of the ongoing campaign by both private and public sectors to phase out diesel-powered generators and have them as standby power generation option.

GIZ, in its 2014 ‘Market Analysis of the Energy Storage Market in Kenya,’ said hotels in off-grid and conservation areas are shifting away from the use of diesel generators as the source of their electricity supply not only to take advantage of the declining prices of renewable energy technology, especially PV and wind, but also to mitigate “the fluctuation of oil prices that can significantly affect the cost of operations.”

Hotels in grid-connected areas, the report said, still suffer “from generally high electricity costs due to high tariffs and high consumption for operations” hence shifting of the focus to renewable energy systems.

GIZ said batteries in the Kenyan market are largely bought either as part of the solar and wind power solutions in projects of integrated systems or to replace used units. They are also sold by distributors that will serve end-users directly, in a do-it-yourself installation model.

“Chinese battery suppliers are strong competitors in the market, which is still very price-driven,” the analysis said, adding that the increased attention to hybrid power systems “is turning diesel generators from substitutes into complementary products, opening new fields of cooperation.”

Although lead acid batteries are the preferred in the Kenyan market, Prof Da Silva said that lithium-ion batteries are now more available and last longer.

“We expect a shift towards lithium ion from the lead acid batteries,” he said. Lithium ion is gaining market share because of its light weight, and it is said to have a high discharge and charge rate.

“We shall soon see households going for lithium-ion batteries to have a more reliable electricity provision when faced with load shedding and black outs,” said Da Silva.

Mark Hankins, the CEO of African Solar Designs Ltd said the global energy storage market is moving from lead acid batteries towards lithium ion “because of the massive increase in production that is supporting the electric car industry.”

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Shem Oirere has previously been a sub-editor in Kenya’s People Daily newspaper in addition to reporting widely on the business beat for several other Kenyan newspapers. He currently freelances, reporting extensively on Africa’s construction, energy and chemical industries for various international publications.

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