e4D – ‘Development and Mini-Grids in Rural Africa’ – Conference Report

Attendees are welcomed to the conference

‘Development and Mini-Grid in Rural Africa’ was the Energy for Development’s (e4D) first dissemination conference successfully held 11 – 12 May 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was well attended with over 130 registrants including academics, project developers, governmental officials, private sector contractors, students, project financiers as well as other stakeholders operating in the field of rural electrification (see list of participating organisations at the end of this report). The complete agenda for the conference can be found here. Follow the link to view our image gallery of the day.

Conference Opening

The first session of the conference began with welcoming remarks by e4D Principal Investigator, Prof AbuBakr Bahaj. The conference was then officially opened by Eng. Benson Mwakina, the Senior Principal Superintending Engineer at the Ministry of Energy & Petroleum Kenya and Eng. Ephantus Kamweru, the Chief Manager of Renewable Energy at the Rural Electrification Authority Kenya.

Brief Summary of the e4D Presentations

Prof Bahaj gives an overview of e4D’s work

The second session of the conference was dedicated to presentations by the different components of the e4D themes. Prof Bahaj began by providing an overview of the e4D project, outlining the projects aims and objectives, reported on the status of the e4D programme. He concluded by stating the urgent need for continued work in energy access, the importance of partnership with government departments and the need for capacity building in this area. Prof Patrick James from the Sustainable Energy Research Group, then gave an engaging talk on the technical design and characteristics of standalone mini-grids in rural Africa, using the Kitonyoni project as a key case study.

Prof James talks about mini-grid technical design

Prof James talk was followed by Prof Zoe Mathews and Dr Heather Price from the Faculty of Social & Human Sciences who discussed the key impacts including health, education and wellbeing of the e4D project. Dr Jane Khayesi from Imperial College Business School representing Prof Gerry George (now at the Dean of the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University) gave a presentation on the entrepreneurship aspects of the project which is important when assessing the economic benefits of mini-grids in rural-poor areas. The morning sessions had ample time for dialogue and saw several vibrant discussions and thought provoking questions coming from the floor after each presentation.

Government Presentations

The afternoon session saw representatives from relevant governmental organisations in the renewable energy sector from Uganda and Kenya who gave presentations on the current energy status of the work being done in this area. Eng. S. K. Kariuki, Assistant Director of Renewable Energy at the Ministry of Energy (MoE) gave a talk on the current energy situation in Kenya, as well as the work being undertaken in renewables.

Mr Benon Bena, REA, gives his presentation

Eng. Ephantus Kamweru, Chief Manager of Renewable Energy at the Rural Electrification Authority (REA), Kenya, provided an outline of the specific work of REA in rural electrification projects covering strategies including work on extending the utility grid, solar homes projects and various mini-grid projects across Kenya including those in partnership with e4D in Kitonyoni, Oloika and Shompole.

Mr Benon Bena, Head of Off-Grid Renewable Energy at the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Uganda, gave a talk on the current status of energy in Uganda and the work done by REA to reach their electrification targets and the incentives for reducing connection fees for households in close proximity to the grid. This was a topic of discussion throughout the conference with Kenyan representatives indicating similar approaches in their strategy to meet their electrification targets. Mr Bena also highlighted the 13.5kW rural electrification mini-grid project of Kanyegaramire, which is a joint partnership between REA Uganda and e4D.

Project Developer Presentations

Dr Terry van Gevelt, an affiliated lecturer from the University of Cambridge and Project Manager of the Smart Villages Initiative, giving an interesting overview of their work in the rural electrification area. Dr Russell Gilbert, director of the not-for-profit UK organisation Heliosse gave an overview for their work in Tanzania and their clustering approach to rural electrification.

Rural Electrification Workshop and Discussion

Vibrant discussions tookplace throughout the day

The last session of the conference covered a workshop and open discussion on rural electrification projects though mini-grids. For the workshop, researchers from the e4D team, Dr Luke Blunden and Mr Chris Kanani gave a presentation showcasing e4D’s step-by-step approach to rural electrification covering the various tools developed under the e4D project. These tools will be made available for download as a single package after completion of the project at the end of 2015.

An open discussion led by Profs James and Bahaj proceeded the presentation with many thought provoking questions and answers given by conference members on 5 key points regarding rural electrification projects through mini-grids. The discussion provided a great way of getting feedback and input from the different stakeholder present at the conference. A summary of the conference open discussion and infographics can be found here (note size, 8Mb).

Kitonyoni Site Visit

The second day of the conference saw 45 conference attendees travel by coach to visit the Kitonyoni solar project to talk with the community and the committees governing the project. The group were welcomed by the community, who conducted a Q&A session with the visitors, culminating in a tour of the project.

Event Content

All of the event presentations can be downloaded from the e4D website or by clicking this link downloads.

Participating Organisations

  • African Solar Designs
  • Chloride Exide
  • Christian Aid
  • County Ministry of Trade, Tourism, Co-operatives & Industry – Makueni
  • Damwe Energy Services
  • DFID Kenya
  • Finance Innovation for Climate Change Fund Kenya (FICCF)
  • GIZ
  • Green Africa Foundation
  • Green Energy Africa
  • GVEP International
  • Heliosse Social Enterprise
  • Imperial College London – Business School
  • Intasave Africa
  • Jomo Kenyatta University
  • Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation
  • Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC)
  • Makerere University, Uganda
  • Masinde Muliro University
  • Ministry of Energy Kenya
  • Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development
  • Miti Mingi Conservation Center
  • Pastoralist Resource Initiative Development Agency (PRIDA)
  • Petrotrack Engineering
  • Politecnico di Milano
  • Powerhive
  • Practical Action
  • Renewable Energy Engineering Contractors
  • Renewable World
  • Rural Electrification Agency, Uganda
  • Rural Electrification Authority, Kenya
  • SciDev.Net
  • Strathmore University
  • Technolectric
  • University of Cambridge – (Smart Villages Initiative)
  • University of Nairobi – (C4D Lab & Institute for Development Studies)
  • University of Southampton
  • WWF


The e4D team would like to thank everyone who attended and presented at the conference and made it such a vibrant and worthwhile event.

Everyone who attended is invited to our second event, planned to be held in Uganda in August 2015 this year. Please check our website for updates. Registration will be open soon.


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For any further questions and information about the conference and all of our energy for development projects please refer to our websites www.energy.soton.ac.uk or www.energyfordevelopment.net or contact e4d@energyfordevelopment.net. Follow us on TwitterSubscribe to our YouTube Channel.

Posted in May, 2015