Productive use of energy: Lessons on user behaviour from Kenya

In a recently published study ENDEV and SNV looked at technologies and trends in the market, solar productive use (PUE) value chains, and a range of activities in the wider PUE ecosystem, including around regulation and financing.

This is what they state about enduser behaviour:

Kenyan PUE customers have intersecting identities, as appliance users at the end of the PUE value chain, as well as sellers and producers within other value chains, including those within agriculture, dairy/livestock/poultry, fisheries, small commerce, light industry and hospitality sub-sectors. As has been documented elsewhere, the cost-benefit of PUE is highly context-dependent, not least because of the place- and gender-specificity of some valueadd activities.

As with SHSs, the PUE market is, to some extent, driven by higher-income rural and peri-urban populations who have the ability to afford, and the appetite to take risks on, new technologies. These include grid-connected and grid-proximate customers using solar as a backup or replacement for Kenya Power. One dairy farmer in grid-connected, peri-urban Machakos estimates that more than half of the homes and businesses near him have solar of all sizes, including large systems.

Not all PUE appliances are used for incomegenerating use, even the solar water pumps (SWP). While a 2021 60 Decibels survey found that 93 per cent of SWP customers are using the product for irrigation or agriculture, Davis & Shirtliff have noted that their SWP customers are predominantly government (50 per cent) and NGOs (20 per cent) whose water supply projects, though value adding, would not necessarily directly increase incomes. Of the remaining 30 per cent going to individuals or small businesses, about one-third are likely to be using the pump for non-agricultural purposes. This may point to additional nuance in sales figures (that, though an appliance may be ‘productive’, it is not always used as such), or, perhaps, in marketing strategy.

Customers are earning money renting their PUE equipment to others. This supplements existing income and boosts repayment capacity, particularly with larger and less-common appliances such as mobile water pumps or public address systems. The latter are currently in demand in the leadup to an election year, and can earn the owner many times the PAYGo repayment. It is unclear whether warranties cover a product used commercially and by others in this way.


Excerpt of: The market for productive uses of solar energy in Kenya: a status report (ENDEV/SNV)

Download the full report