KENYA – Sasini Plc, a Kenya-based tea, and coffee company, plans to install a solar energy plant in its 1,463 hectares of tea estates and reduce reliance on the country’s grid, which is supplied by Kenya Power and Lighting Company.
Economic Survey 2022 shows there was a 61 percent growth in the power production capacity of small plants that have been set up by various organizations for their consumption.
Sasini noted it will commission the 1.5 MW solar power generation station in its tea business this year in a move that will see it start relying on renewable sources of energy.
The planned transition comes at a time when the local power distributor is on course to withdraw the monthly subsidy that cushions poor households and increases electricity prices from April by up to 78 percent if the energy sector regulator approves new tariffs.
Besides increasing the base tariff, the listed utility firm has reduced the threshold for accessing the monthly power subsidy equivalent to a 24.1 percent discount from 100 kilowatt hours to the proposed 30 units.
“On energy usage, the company has made a conscious choice to supplement our energy requirements by commissioning a solar energy plant at our tea factories,” says Sasini in its latest annual report.
“We have embarked on the transition to a sustainable and clean energy future, with the first phase being the solarization of our tea factories at Kipkebe and Keritor, which are heavy consumers of hydroelectric power and wood fuel.”
The Solar energy plant will complement the agricultural firm’s innovative moves, such as switching from manual tea harvesting to a mechanized process, saving millions.
In January 2022, the chief executive Martin Ochien’g said that farm automation was one of the key contributors to the company’s sharp profit jump in the year ended September 2021.
“The mechanizing of the tea farms has helped us (contain costs). A lot of the people who were picking tea for us were seasonal employees on a contract,” he said. “So, we just managed their contracts well when their contracts ended. We then were able to move the harvesting method of picking to mechanization.”
Sasini, which also owns coffee, tea, and macadamia plantations, said the solar initiative will progressively be extended to other operations over time.
Consequently, the company will have the output to meet the high demand for its products in eyed markets like Asia, North America, and the Middle East.
Europe remains a key market for Sasini and its rival food producers but has plans to expand to new markets, citing a huge opportunity as the global markets fully reopen following the Covid-19 pandemic disruption.
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