Naivasha based Flower grower and exporter Oserian Development Company has been named the best renewable energy champion during the Kenya Association of Manufacturer’s (KAM) Energy Management Awards (EMA) 2019.
The Country’s largest flower exporter, which uses geothermal steam to power business—from lighting hundreds of staff houses to heating its greenhouses at night beat more than 20 companies from various sectors that took part in the event whose ratings were carried out by two international audit firms.
The firms were evaluated in various categories including adaptation, innovation and diversification into environmentally friendly sources of energy. Oserian Development Company excelled specifically in
efficient use and generation of energy and investment in geothermal energy to power its operations.
“We started embracing heating of greenhouses with geothermal energy in 2001. Oserian Development Company is the only firm in the world running the largest geothermal heated greenhouse and flower pack
house,” said Mary Kinyua, the company’s Director of Human Resources and Administration.
Kenya Association of Manufacturer’s Chief Executive Officer Ms Phyllis Wakiaga observed that the flower firm had demonstrated its resolve to supporting Kenya’s official policy, seeking to attain 100 per cent transition to green energy by 2020.
“It may appear insignificant but we also considered that Oserian has also introduced hybrid sheep that are used to keep the grass short around the greenhouses, replacing the diesel mowers,” observed Ms Wakiaga
Recently President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the government was keen to deepen the use of renewable energy, in particular solar as per the National Electrification Strategy.
“Our target is to attain 100 per cent green energy sufficiency by 2020. We will do this while we achieve 100 per cent access to power for our population, and sharply lower costs to industry to aid our manufacturing push.
We have to use renewable sources of energy to protect our environment and ensure that we pass down, to our sons and daughters, a country as clean and green as we inherited from our fathers,” said the President.
Oserian Development Company Managing Director Neil Hellings said the firm that also generates electricity at its two power plants would continue exploring other uses of renewable energy towards reducing and
reversing effects of climate change while delivering jobs and opportunities that will strengthen security and stability in Kenya and beyond.
“To do even more, we need support from the Green Climate Fund and other mechanisms to enhance our green energy capabilities and accelerate adaptation and reduce the impact of climate change.
Africa is not among top producers of greenhouse emissions, but it was the champion of sustainability because countries know the painful price of inaction. Energy Regulatory Authority has granted us a
variation of our two megawatt (MW) geothermal power generation license to include harnessing of solar energy,” stated the Managing Director.
Late 2018, the firm introduced geothermal powered electric cars, known as tugs currently used to transport flowers from the greenhouses to the pack house.
The innovation, Mr. Hellings says has drastically reduced fuel costs from Sh400,000 to 30,000 monthly, translating into savings of Sh1.8 million.
“The success and efficiency of tugs has seen us mull over converting our fleet to a hundred per cent electric in the future as the company moves closer to being a carbon free business in 2020.
This month, we are set to launch a solar plant to inject an additional 1 MW enabling it to supply sufficient power for all its operations and sell to the national grid,” observed Mr. Hellings.
Ms. Kinyua indicated that geothermal heating enables the company to sell 380 million flower stems each year and also grow varieties of roses that would not be economically viable without 24-hour heating.
“Through use of geothermal energy as opposed to conventional electricity we make huge savings that enable Oserian to pay its employees more than double that of many competitors.
Thanks to geothermal, Oserian is able to grow exclusive specialty roses like Queen of Africa and Vuvuzela which require unique heating not possible under different heating systems,” explained the Director
of Human Resources and Administration
In giving out the award, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers also considered that the company in partnership with biological control companies Madumbi and Andermatt of Switzerland produce 10 million beneficial insects every week to eat predatory bugs reducing use of chemicals and labour and contributing to a safer chemical-free greener environment.
In addition, the company has embraced a more environmentally-friendly transportation process. It has adopted cargolite, the newest flower packaging technology, in which corrugated boards are strengthened with plastic skeleton.
“This means a lighter box, which saves on airspace and airfreight costs, resulting in reduced impact on the environment. By using the new packaging system, Oserian can potentially save up to Sh. 80,000
for every one million stems transported to Europe,” said Ms Kinyua.
She says by using geothermal heating, Oserian Development Company has managed to tame diseases such as petal botrytis and downy mildew, two
of the greatest threats to flower production while minimizing fungicide spray in the green houses and reducing cost of energy, leading to substantial contribution to a greener planet.
The Energy Management Awards launched in 2004 by Green Energy Foundation-KAM Energy Efficiency Project seeks to recognize enterprises that have achieved outstanding energy savings and cost
reductions through improved utilization of energy.
By Anne Mwale