Lean Energy Solutions Kenya is an energy solutions firm based in Nairobi, in the heart of Kenya, The Exchange spoke to the firm’s Managing Director Dinesh Tembhekar who outlined his goals, challenges as well as future plans for the firm.
The firm’s aim is to ensure that the Carbon Footprint is reduced – which in turn will have the benefit of reducing the energy costs for its clients’ premises.
Tell us what you think of Kenya’s use of renewable energy.
Kenya’s involvement in renewable energy is amazing so far and the country is heading towards the right direction. Imagine a Kenya without carbon emissions and with a new line of careers in renewable energy?
How I long for that time when the renewable energy sector will have led to massive job creation and helped mitigate climate change. This however, can only be achieved when Kenyans understand how renewable energy works and why the country should completely embrace green energy.
Kenya has always been at the forefront of renewable energy and 70% of Kenya’s installed capacity comes from renewable energy, which is a remarkable achievement. According to the President of the Republic of Kenya, by 2020, 100% of power will be generated by green energy. For Kenya, the renewable energy mainly comes from geothermal power and from wind power. Solar power has had a lot of push and support by government through the placement of the right policy and direction. Kenya is destined to be a leading renewable energy producer in the world.
Where did you draw your inspiration from to start this in 2006?
The mission statement of Lean Energy Solutions has been and remains, ‘to enhance the business competitiveness of customers by providing cost effective tools in an eco-friendly and cost effective manner.’ The journey began by walking the talk, in enhancing the cost effectiveness of the customer through provision of energy audits in 2006. We began by conducting energy audits to Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) who have remained our clients to date. So far, Lean Energy Solutions has conducted over 500 energy audits in Kenya and Tanzania.
As the company grew, Lean Energy Solutions ventured into the manufacturing of briquettes from biomass, replacing fossil fuels like furnace oil or diesel of the boilers. The company uses a strategic model dubbed BOOT (Build Own and Operate and Transfer) by providing the boilers to clients and replacing the furnace oil boilers with the briquette boilers. This is done under an eight to ten-year contract with the client where the steam from the briquette boilers is sold to the client at up to 25% discounted price. This has helped reduce the cost of energy of various companies.
We now have a partnership with French electricity firm, Schneider Electric in a Sh2 billion investment targeting the solar photovoltaic industry, where we install solar panels to companies, schools, hospitals and any institutions that consume bulk power.
Where do you source your raw materials from to make briquettes?
We make the briquettes from biomass like saw dust, coffee husks and sugar cane bagasse, which is available in plenty all over Kenya. Saw dust for instance is brought from saw mills, coffee husks are sourced from coffee mills and bagasse is sourced from sugar cane factories.
These are all waste biomass material that are disposed, yet Lean Energy Solutions turns them into something valuable – the briquette.
Currently Lean Energy Solutions is producing about 2, 000 tonnes of briquettes per month.
What would you like Kenyan businesses especially manufacturers who spend a lot on electricity bills to do in order to significantly bring down their costs of production?
Kenya is blessed with solar power and sun throughout the year, it c which they can make use of. For most industries, hotels and institutions, I urge them to take this great opportunity to reduce energy costs by using the roof top solar power generation facility. Lean Energy Solutions as a partner of Schneider Electric, is at the forefront of providing this solar power generation facility. This facility is unique in that the solar power is generated and used immediately without storing it, reducing the cost of installation. On purchasing the solar power facilities from Lean Energy Solutions, the payback period is between three to four years and in 20-25 years the manufacturing companies can get the advantage of their investment in solar energy.
What are some of the challenges that Lean Energy has faced in order to get to where it is now?
There have been challenges especially in 2007/08 when we introduced the concept of briquettes made from biomass. This concept was completely new and firewood was available in plenty and very cheap. It was very tough competing with firewood, I would call it a daunting task. A challenge has a way of bringing out the best in a product. This is how Lean Energy Solutions came up with BOOT (Build Own and Operate and Transfer) which positioned the company to compete amongst its peers
What projects are you working on in partnership with the government to bring down electricity costs or increase electricity access?
We have worked with Rural Electrification Authority (REA) on many solar power generation projects. Some of the outstanding large scale solar power projects done by Lean Energy Solutions Ltd include the installation of the 180kW over three sites in a period of one year. This were accomplished in Gurar, Wajir County located at the border of Kenya and Ethiopia, Kiliwehiri, Banisa constituency located in Mandera County and Ashabito located in Mandera North. The project has had a major impact on the community, employing a total of 90 people in the three sites, developing livelihoods, hence reducing idleness and crime rate.
Lean Energy Solutions has also done projects in Turkana County and in Eldoret for Eldoret Water and Sanitation Company (ELDOWAS).
What is Lean Energy solutions expansion plan in the next two to three years?
Lean Energy Solutions has a well strategized plan especially for roof top solar power generation and most of the manufacturing companies, hotels and institutions are marked for this expansion. The plan is to work with companies in this cadre to help them reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. We plan to achieve 20 Megawatts by of rooftop solar power generation by the year 2020.
What are some of the memorable milestones for Lean Energy Solutions?
One of the most outstanding moments was when Lean Energy Solutions emerged winner of a Business Daily and KPMG survey listing Kenya’s fastest-growing medium-sized companies. The survey covered firms with sales of between Sh70 million and Sh1 billion and saw manufacturers dominate the top ten list of the 100 firms profiled. Lean Energy took the top position because of its outstanding technology in green energy, that has seen it win major clients, sparking a change in established manufacturing processes. The award was inspired by Lean Energy Solutions interest in turning waste to renewable energy by using bagasse, to power boilers in factories producing fast moving consumer goods.