P4G announced the Accelerating Rural Electrification through Containerized Hydro Power Plant partnership as its 2022 State-of-the-Art Partnership of the Year at the UN Climate Conference (COP27) on November 9. Each year, the P4G State-of-the-Art Partnership Awards recognize the world’s most impactful partnerships that are accelerating innovative business models. Past winners have advanced solutions on circular fashion, water and sanitation access, food waste and more, becoming valuable contributors to P4G’s ecosystem of green business models.

The National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND) is a Government of Kenya agency that aims to deliver more affordable electricity. NETFUND partnered with HydroBox NV, a private company whose goal is to implement decentralized run-of-river power stations in Kenya that can produce 24/7 reliable power. Run-of-river hydro projects use the natural downward flow of rivers and micro turbine generators to capture energy from the water. In Kenya, that makes small hydropower one of the most efficient, affordable and sustainable sources of energy.

Hydropower is a key priority as the country aims to deliver energy access to 100% of its population by 2030. Ideally, this energy will be renewable – Kenya has set an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce emissions by 32% by 2030.

This partnership’s power station models are small and containerized, so they can be implemented and used easily in rivers across Kenya. This form of hydropower additionally does not require dams, leading to a lower environmental impact. With smart sensors and remote management, the system can also balance production and consumption through a monitoring and forecasting system.

The partnership provides an innovative way to supply renewable energy to rural areas which are not connected to existing energy sources and stabilize the national electricity grid in areas suffering frequent outages, all with minimal environmental impact. In areas with abundant rivers, this compact model is filling the gap by enabling the private sector, through Hydrobox and the government, represented by NetFund, to form partnerships with local communities and provide energy to a range of customers.

But technology alone cannot solve energy access challenges, and this partnership complements its technology with a scalable business model.

Many businesses in the rural electrification industry struggle because electricity consumption by rural households is too low to be a financially sustainable proposition for businesses. HydroBox focuses on serving a diversified market: large businesses that consume a lot of energy, such as a tea factory; small businesses with daytime demand, such as a school; and household customers that generally consume energy at night. This results in more demand and lower prices compared to focusing exclusively on one segment.

This partnership has impacted the lives of over 3,000 people in Kenya by connecting 600 underserved households, businesses, hospitals and schools to affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity using mini-hydro installations.

The containerized power plant that will be commissioned in 2022 will generate 0.5MW and serve a population of 25,000 by the end of 2023. The partnership ultimately aims to develop 18 additional projects of 23 MW with the goal to empower 1 million East Africans by 2027.

To accelerate climate action around the world, the P4G State-of-the-Art Awards recognize public-private partnerships delivering tangible impact in five focus areas: food, water, energy, cities and the circular economy. The 2022 sector winners include:

We look forward to welcoming more partnerships into the P4G Family as we accelerate green business models on the terms of developing countries.