Serena Patel

Job title: 
Fellowship Recipient
Energy Engineering and Energy and Resources
Research interests: 
Fellowship Year(s): 2020
Project/Theme Title: A franchise model to empower informal settlements with renewable energy and employment
Abstracts: This paper focuses on Kibera, a large informal settlement, or ‘slum’, in Nairobi where electricity access is limited, expensive, and intermittent. We evaluate the technological and economic benefits of meeting demand with renewable energy, innovative financing, and inclusive community programs. We explore these options with a mixture of modeling and field-based assessment of a hybrid mini-grid for a community empowerment facility - the Kibera Town Centre (KTC, a non-profit organization). KTC, a private provider of water, washing, and training services serves ~ 600 women and children per day. We participated in the installation of the area’s first grid-tied solar-battery systems with 35 kWp of rooftop solar at KTC in 2018. We consider an expansion of the energy system to include community loads like schools and small businesses. Using the HOMER software tool, we find that the levelized cost of energy will decrease by 60%. This will be less expensive than the prevailing utility electricity base rates. This analysis informs a proposed design of a novel, community-empowering, and profitable ‘mini-grid franchise’ model that provides supplemental income to neighboring homes and businesses. This work uniquely combines primary data, modeling results, and feasibility studies to contribute to literature enabling electricity access for informal settlements.

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