Community Power Centres and Rural Energy Initiatives


Presently up to two billion people worldwide lack access to modern energy services. The vast majority live in rural areas in the poorest regions of the world. The crucial link between energy and poverty has made this an issue of major importance for the international community and governments of developing countries.


Power Centres:
UNIDO, in partnership with other stakeholders, has been using electricity generated from renewable energy sources for various initiatives. The energy generated is directed to village power centres where it is used for different applications.  

The key objective of a village power centre is to promote the use of electricity for productive use, instead of restricting it to consumptive use. The centre also promotes income-generating activities that will in the long run improve the quality of life in rural areas through the provision of clean energy. It will furthermore increase the opportunities for gainful employment by using the energy to add value to local produce.

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The CPC Project

This project was designed to establish clusters of Community Power Centres (five in each cluster) powered by zero-emission hybrid renewable energy technologies such as micro hydro, biogas, wind, solar and straight vegetable oil (SVO) fed Engine-Generators. The CPC’s would provide power for lighting and productive activities to off-grid villages with a primary focus on the Millennium Villages/Districts of Kenya. The Millennium Villages in Kenya, established in cooperation with the Earth Institute of Columbia University, are located in areas far removed from the electric grid or in areas with erratic and unreliable power supplies.

The overall development objective of the project is to stimulate local economic development and help alleviate poverty in regions cut off from the power grid. The electricity produced from the renewable energy systems can be used to run small agro-processing and other essential enterprises.

Community-owned business support services at rural district business centres could be assisted and educational opportunities improved through CPC facilities. Through energy- efficient lighting such as LED lamps to replace fossil fuel-guzzling, smoky kerosene lamps, quality of life in the villages would be raised. For example, a project involving 10 Community Power Centres would offset approximately 5,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, and avoid the costs of importing 1.5 million litres of diesel every year to produce the same amount of electricity.

Renewable Energy Technology Options

UNIDO's initiative on rural energy consists of:

Solar Energy
Semiconductors that convert solar energy directly into electricity are called photovoltaic devices or solar cells. There are three main technologies in commercial production: monocrystalline cells (most expensive but highly efficient), polycrystalline cells (moderately priced and efficient) and thin-film cells (cheapest and least efficient). Many developing countries are endowed with long daily sunny periods. Therefore, there are ample opportunities to develop photovoltaic solar projects in sunshine-rich countries.

Small Hydropower
Water falling on turbines converts mechanical energy into electricity by means of a generator. The amount of useful energy that can be captured is proportional to the vertical distance of the water drop (the head) and the volume (flow rate) of the water. Hydropower stations that are connected to national electricity grids are often built as a part of large-scale power generation systems. In the context of this initiative, UNIDO focuses on small-scale projects such as mini-hydro (less than 1,000 kilowatts) and micro-hydro (less than 100 kilowatts) plants.

Bio-energy in the form of heat or electricity can be produced by using biomass directly as a fuel or by converting it to biogas as demonstrated in one of the CPC projects. The main sources of biomass include industrial, agricultural and animal wastes which are cheap and renewable. In addition to economic and greenhouse gas savings, the waste from biogas projects can be used as nitrogenous fertilizer.

Biofuel is defined as solid, liquid or gas fuel derived from recently expired biological material and is distinguished from fossil fuels, which are derived from long dead biological material. Theoretically, biofuels can be produced from any (biological) carbon source; although, the most common sources are photosynthetic plants. Various plants and plant-derived materials are used for biofuel manufacturing. Affordable diesel generator sets can be easily modified with SVO technology to reach a capacity of 5-20 kW. Untreated, straight vegetable oil can be used as fuel, as can palm, sunflower, jathropha, cotton seed and the like. A complete engine overhaul can be performed by local experts for US$ 200, making maintenance by local mechanics cheap and carbon neutral. An added benefit is that the entire value creation process remains in the region.

Wind Energy
A wind turbine converts mechanical wind power into electrical energy. The most common wind turbines in operation today are mounted on towers and generate power from two blades revolving around a horizontal axis. Such turbines usually include a gearbox and an electrical generator. Wind turbines are rated by their maximum output. In off-grid applications, wind generators can be combined with other energy sources, such as, in our case SVO generators, hydro and solar. Although wind as a resource is intermittent, it is predictable and thus the output from wind turbines could be integrated into the existing mini electrical grid.

The Government’s Priorities “Vision 2030” stipulate 10% growth of Kenya’s economy; currently the annual average growth rate in installed capacity of power in the country is less than 5%.

  • Energy Management Center for promoting energy efficiency of industries
  • Sustainable Energy Production through provision of decentralized RET systems

Overall Project Objective

Stimulate local economic development in selected rural off-grid areas in Kenya through the introduction of Renewable Energy Technologies for Productive Use.
Government’s Priorities “Vision 2030” stipulates 10 % growth of Kenya’s economy; currently the annual average growth rate in installed capacity of power in the country is less than 5%. The lack of adequate electricity is hampering the growth of industries particularly focused on manufacturing and value addition such that more than 75% of the country’s exports are in raw materials than finished goods. This project will directly contribute to Goal 4 (Improve Productivity) and to Goal 5 (Support Entrepreneurship and Indigenous Enterprise Development) of the Private Sector Development Strategy (PSDS).

Main Counterparts/Lead Institutions

  • Ministry of Energy
  • Local Communities and Entrepreneurs
  • Business Solution Centers