Tea Company goes green by installing solar

Nairobi News Technology

The Unilever Tea Kenya and Cross Boundary Energy have signed solar services agreement in Africa.

According the agreement Cross Boundary Energy will be installing and operating a 600 kWp solar power plant at the company’s Kericho tea plantation, which will be operational in mid-2018.

This is the first commercial and industrial Power Purchase  Agreement (PPA) for Unilever in Africa and part of its broader commitment to decouple its environmental impact from business growth and footprint.

The solar system is being financed and operated by Cross Boundary Energy through a 15-year solar services agreement with Unilever Tea Kenya and will deliver substantial savings on its current power costs reducing its carbon emissions by over 10,000 tonnes over the plant’s 30 plus-year lifetime.

The Managing Director of Unilever Tea Kenya, Nicholaos Yiannakis said the deal with Cross Boundary Energy brings them closer to meeting one of the aims of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan – sourcing 100 percent of total energy across their global operations from renewables by 2030.

“We intend to be the first of Unilever’s facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa to be operating on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. As a member of RE100, we are proud to demonstrate to our peers, that it is now possible to make commercially viable commitments to solar energy in Africa,” said Yiannakis.

Yiannakis said that over 90 percent of the energy used on the Kericho factory already comes from renewable sources where hydroelectric power turbines provide around 70 percent of electricity, and have been in use for nearly 100 years at the Kericho plantation.

“The Cross Boundary Energy solar plant is expected to start producing power in mid-2018, and will mean that almost 96 percent of power at Unilever’s Kericho factory will be from renewable sources,” he explained.

CBE will finance the installation of solar on the estate then operate and own the solar plant. Unilever will only pay for the power produced, receiving a single monthly bill that already includes maintenance, monitoring, insurance and financing costs.

The Managing Partner of Cross Boundary Energy, Matt  Tilleard said that under this solar services agreement they will take on the financial, technical and operational component, leaving Unilever to focus on its core business.

“We have commissioned experienced engineering procurement and construction partners in Solar century and Solar Africa, to build a world class facility,” said Tilleard.

The plant is expected to create at least 12 jobs in Kenya via construction, operations and maintenance activities over the 15-year period of the agreement.

The Solar Africa Chief Investment Officer, Charl  Alheit said that in 2016 Kenya recorded the highest volume of sale in domestic off grid systems in Africa and globally was second only to India.

“However, the adoption of solar by business has been constrained by high upfront cost and perceived complexity of management and ownership of large solar installation,” said Alheit.

By  Joseph  Ng’ang’a

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