French oil major Total looks to expand its green energy operations with rollout of its ‘sunshine kiosks’ targeting off-grid small businesses in Africa.
The sunshine kiosks are fitted with solar panels and backup battery. The kiosks are tailored for corner shops in remote villages and configured to support lighting, phone charging, TV, refrigeration and Wi-Fi.
Company executives represented at the just concluded sixth Global Off-Grid Solar Forum 2020 in Nairobi said the oil company was eyeing a bigger piece of the green energy pie by broadening the range of its off-grid solar products. The list includes home solar systems, sunshine kiosks and solar-powered micro-grids.
Total cemented its solar energy drive by joining the membership of Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) – a network of about 180 organisations involved in off-grid solar solutions. It’s the only other oil major to join the solar grouping, alongside Dutch oil company Shell which has also forayed into renewables like solar and wind.
“Total joins forces with local players to provide products coupled with financial solutions tailored to the client’s needs including pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and microcredit,” company officials said.
The pay-as-you-go model has gained root in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years. Here, clients pay for use of home solar systems as a service until the full cost of the equipment is recovered upon which users assume ownership. Payments are through mobile money.
In Kenya, where Total operates a chain of petrol stations in major towns and holds a minority stake in the remote northern Turkana oilfields, the oil dealer has been vending home solar kits.
Total Kenya is also installing solar panels at its petrol stations for own use to ease the burden of power bills.
It has in recent years been mounting panels on the rooftop of its forecourt buildings in Nairobi, along with convenience stores (bonjour shops). The oil dealer has over 200 petrol stations around the country.
The green energy shift by the French oil major comes at a time when focus is turning to renewables and away from fossil fuels in light of air pollution and climate change.
“With operations in more than 130 countries, we’re a global integrated energy producer and provider, a leading international oil and gas company, and a major player on solar energy with Total Solar and our affiliate SunPower,” the company said.
In October 2019, Total inked a partnership deal with UK-based Aceleron, a developer of sustainable and reusable battery solutions, to recycle old battery packs in Kenya.
In the deal, Aceleron is to convert Total’s home solar lantern battery waste into affordable reusable batteries for low-income households, giving the packs a longer life and enabling a circular economy.
The petroleum dealer is among a growing list of companies in Kenya that have set up solar powered stations for own use, while relying less on the national grid supply to slash power costs. This trend has the impact of stirring the revenue stream of electricity distributor Kenya Power.
Several manufacturers and shopping malls like Garden City Mall and Two Rivers Mall have cut reliance on power from the national grid, with their daytime operations being powered by solar plants perched on rooftops of their buildings and carports. Kenya Power’s supply has been limited to mostly nighttime operations and during brief periods when sunlight drops.
This solar-led cost-cutting drive has the impact of narrowing Kenya Power’s revenue flow by billions of shillings, with the utility firm potentially falling victim to the march towards mass solar power use. The utility firm has been riding on increased power sales to boost its turnover, a model now under attack.