A new approach to energy poverty

Energy poverty is a global crisis. Millions of people all over the world don’t have access to basic resources they need to survive, and what’s being done today to address it isn’t working. It’s time to think bigger than village-scale pilot projects and instead, start working on proven and scalable global level solutions that can impact millions of lives.

Fuel Freedom has taken an innovative approach to tackling energy poverty.

As the Director of International Advocacy at Fuel Freedom, I have the privilege of leading our efforts to advance these types of solutions. Partnering with the top-ranked IESE Business School of Barcelona, we’ve launched the Fuel Freedom Chair for Energy and Social Development. Our idea is to present uniquely proven and scalable business models to local business and community leaders who can invest in them and build companies of their own, improving the lives of people in their home countries. Starting in Africa, the program is being expanded to other nations around the world.

Here’s a short video describing the program:

Since the program’s launch, we’ve made great strides in a short amount of time: In March, we hosted our first executive course for leaders from government, the private sector and civil society in Naivasha, Kenya. It focused on four key pillars: power generation, transportation fuels, fertilizer production, and cooking fuels. With more than 50 people present, we presented comprehensive research on each pillar, as well as replicable business cases that could serve as investment opportunities. None of the business cases were from the U.S., or even traditionally Western countries. They were tailored to fit the region we presented in.

As a direct result of our program, the dean of Strathmore Business School, our partner on the ground in Kenya, spearheaded the creation of Kawi Capital Exchange, a fund committed to supporting projects focused on these four pillars. “Kawi” is Swahili for energy. A business plan is already in development to adopt ethanol as an alternative fuel in Kenya, and to make fertilizer from natural gas at oil discovery sites in western Kenya. Steps are also being taken to explore converting diesel-burning power turbines to run on cheaper, cleaner methanol fuel. This all happened within three months! Imagine what more is to come.

If we succeed, by 2030 Kenya will have 1 million megatons of ethanol; 30,000 new direct jobs, and a 25 percent reduction in petroleum-based imports.

Fertilizer demand in Kenya is around 600,000 MT/per annum. That number is expected to double in the next five years. Natural gas is the feedstock for 98% of the world’s manufactured ammonia (the basis of nitrogen fertilizer.) We can use the natural gas produced at oil discovery sites and turn it into fertilizer, instead of flaring it into the atmosphere. In Kenya, the number of direct jobs expected to be created through just one production facility is almost 2,000. This will have an enormous impact on Kenya’s crop yields and addressing a potential food shortage following this year’s drought.

I just returned from another weeklong trip to Nairobi, Kenya inspired and excited by the progress we’ve made and what lies ahead. We are helping to build a team of Kenyans on the ground who are investing their human, social and political capital into making changes to end energy poverty. Kenyans are ready and prepared to take action.

But we’re not stopping in Kenya. The vision of this chair is to expand to countries in need all over the world. In September, we’ll travel to the Ivory Coast to continue our work and it won’t be the last place we go. We’ll continue until our business-driven approach has an opportunity to thrive in multiple regions and we’ve improved the lives of millions of people. We truly believe that it is possible to end energy poverty, and we won’t stop until we do.

Want to get involved? Get in touch with me – [email protected]


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