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Better many U-boats than few super warships

Thursday March 14 2019

solar energy

Solar panel. The use of solar energy is one of the best ways of promoting green energy. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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One of the most successful strategists in six-year “Battle of the Atlantic” — the longest battle of attrition in the Second World War — was the Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Germany’s Navy Commander-in-Chief.

He postulated that effective submarine warfare could bring Britain to its knees, and an unlikely strategy won — Rudeltaktik (German for ‘tactics of a pack), the wolfpack. U-boats (submarines) would spread out in a long line on the projected course of British convoy. They would then attack en masse and overwhelm the escorting warships.


Market communications, and the marketing profession, has borrowed heavily from military strategies — from nomenclature to actual structure. In this regard, over-reliance on big institutions to execute change — such as bringing down the cost of energy — is a long shot since their bureaucratic nature, like big warships, gives them less flexibility and manoeuvrability.

It is time we borrowed from Rudeltaktik. The messaging should, ideally, be targeted at the masses, who are very flexible and, in a pack (critical mass), can cause a revolutionary change faster than a ‘government warship’ could execute a turn on its course.

To paraphrase the eminent economist Adam Smith, it is not by the benevolence of the government that we will get cheap energy, neither is it by the kindness of development partners and NGOs that we get sustainable energy, but it is by the invincible hand of demand and supply.

Such maxims as vox populi, vox dei (God’s voice is the voice of the people) need to be effected in a grand scheme that can see consumers empowered through information and availability of renewable energy products that will drastically reduce their energy consumption. You can either keep complaining about the high cost of grid energy (at Sh23 per kilowatt hour) or switch to the cheaper solar (Sh2/kWh).


The renewable energy industry ought to execute the Rudeltaktik. British Admiral Sir Winston Churchill — though commanding the Royal Navy’s big warships and battle cruisers, such as HMS Ark Royal, HMS Courageous and HMS Royal Oak — was outmanoeuvred by the hundreds of submarines inflicted huge losses and a near-blockade of the island kingdom.

The energy revolution is not a question of if or when but how. This calls for a paradigm shift to a strategy that resonates with the bottom of the pyramid consumers — positioning clean energy as an ‘alternative’ to primary energy source and the grid as backup; from direct marketing relationship sales to a profit-oriented transactional approach, from short-term financing (24 months) to a more economic, time-valued matched pay plans (84 months or more); and from boring pamphlets and flyers to cutting-edge commercials and infomercials.

The strategy should ideally be premised on the objective of having a million households with a solar system of one kilowatt and above (one gigawatt). This revolution, when achieved, will surpass the current output by all power stations in Kenya and, what’s more, the resulting oversupply of energy will make our manufacturing cheaper, quality of life richer, environment cleaner, create more jobs... Indeed, better a million crew with a million U-boats than few super warships with a million crew.

Ms Hassan is the Kisumu branch manager for SolarNow Kenya [email protected]