Though a marketing value preposition used by companies that package and sell mineral water, “bottled at source” can apply to energy.
The cost of transmission of electricity from the source to the consumer has been both expensive as it is unreliable, resulting, on default, in unscheduled blackouts or, by design, scheduled outages for maintenance purposes.
Safaricom, the largest corporation in East and Central Africa, has woken up to the fact that they need to ‘bottle’ their energy needs at source.
It plans to phase out diesel generators to power its 4,945 sites across the country.
In its “2018 Sustainability Business Report”, the largest telco in the region seems to have realised that green energy is the new frontier in sustainably powering its huge number of sites.
If you live in a place where you suffer daily blackouts, relying on the grid is a teeth-gnashing experience.
Businesses resort to backup generators, increasing their overheads. It’s a paradox that in an area with above-average solar irradiance can have daily blackouts.
Such a huge investment in solar energy will communicate the need by households and businesses to bottle their energy at source.
The value of investment in solar energy cannot be gainsaid — more so in anticipation of the feed in tariff (Fit), which will allow supply of excess power to the grid and earn households a modicum of income.
On savings alone, data from the survey by Safaricom shows that the number of sites powered exclusively by diesel generators reduced by 59.16 percent last year to 78, down from 191 as of September 2017.
As a result, the amount of fuel used by the telco reduced by 18 percent to 9.43 million litres, from 11.48 million litres in 2017.
Smaller sites were moved to the solar-based energy solution with additional capacity.
Even as the number of sites connected to the grid increased by 149 to 3,755, an additional 22 were converted to solar or wind and hybrid power solutions.
At least 155 of the telco’s sites are powered by solar energy.
Safaricom joins Strathmore University in Kenya and Kochi Airport in India in being carbon-neutral organisations, effectively reducing their carbon footprints.
The telco is positioning itself for the international platform of UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 7 on energy sustainability and SDG 13: To take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data shows that in 1880-2012, average global temperatures increased by 0.85 degrees Celsius; for each degree, grain yields declined by about five percent.
Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions globally of 40 megatones per year between 1981 and 2002 due to a warmer climate.
With most of its sites being powered by off-grid generators in the rural far-flung areas and agricultural zones, it’s imperative to any huge consumer of fossil fuel to care about the environment it’s in.
Safaricom has sent a strong message to the telecoms sector, in particular, and industries with high energy costs, in general: Renewable is the way to go.
Ms Hassan is the Kisumu branch manager for SolarNow, a renewable energy company. [email protected]