Snapshot: Steamaco's cloud-based system gives Lake Magadi dwellers access to electricity

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

Thanks to a flurry of private investment in renewable energy, Lake Magadi’s fishing villages and nearby rural communities are benefiting from affordable electricity for the first time.

SteamaCo, a Nairobi-based start-up, designed the technology behind it: the micro-grids use SteamaCo's innovative cloud-based metering and payments system that monitors energy use, enables people to pay for power with their mobile phones, and quickly troubleshoots problems.

On paper, independent renewable- powered grids can make economic sense for providing affordable power, and with investment these could rapidly bring electricity to many more households. But the favourable economics can easily be overturned unless the micro-grid works reliably and customers pay regularly. Both of these are challenging in remote areas.

Nairobi-based SteamaCo’s original business model was the production, sale and installation of individual renewable energy systems. It moved to installing micro-grids because more people could be reached by selling units of electricity rather than hardware. It was this experience that showed the value of remote management of micro-grids metering, control and payments.

SteamaCo’s focus is now on the development and sale of the technologies that enable this. The company sells its hardware to micro-grid developers and leases the software on a monthly basis.

Micro-grid owners, who are SteamaCo’s direct customers, pay a one off charge of around $1,500-2,000 for the company’s hardware, and then a licence fee of around $100 per month for the Steama software. This licence fee allows them to view their own micro-grids on the Steama dashboard, and get data from it.

Tariffs for electricity use by Entasopia’s residents are set by the micro-grid owner and implemented via Steama. Typically customers pay a connection fee of around $10, followed by a charge of $2-4 per kWh for electricity used. Although high compared with grid electricity, this is considerably cheaper than petrol for lighting and comparable with the charges for pay-as-you-go solar-home-systems.

Connection to the national grid, even if available, would cost significantly more, at about $1,000.

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