Inspired by his home country Kenya, George wanted to connect energy solutions from around the world to communities back home and decided to complete a masters in renewable energy in Scotland. Whilst studying, George worked with the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum and learned about Engineers Without Borders UK at the Heriot-Watt International Center for Island Technology. George worked in Orkney for Aquatera on a number of global projects before coming back to Kenya. Since graduating, George has become an Energy Efficiency Officer in Kenya, and recently worked on the mini-grid regulations for the Kenyan Energy Act 2019. Since joining a University Chapter in Scotland, George also became a reviewer for The Engineering For People Design Challenge.

Could you tell us a bit more about the mini-grid regulations for the Energy Act 2019 Kenya?

There has been significant growth in the off-grid sub-sector in Kenya in the last few years. Mini-grids can currently be set up by both the local authorities and independent developers – including unscrupulous developers on occasion. Some of these unregulated mini-grids don’t meet the existing grid code and cannot be connected to the wider grid – they cause various issues for future development plans. Because of the relatively new activity, there has not been existing legislation in place to connect these new grids, onboard new customers and confirm new tariffs. There was no specific regulation to assist planners or to make the mini-grids commercially viable in order to secure investment. As an Energy Efficiency Officer, I come up with new regulations and legislation, which is key to enabling energy viability and access across Kenya.

What was your level of involvement with the creation of the regulations?

It’s a lengthy but very worthwhile process…My team carries out studies and will assess the regulatory impact. We then create the proposed regulations and take them for public consultation. We gain feedback from the public which we then incorporate into the regulation proposal. Next, we forward the regulation to the Minister of Energy which gets tabled in parliament, which then becomes law.

What would you like to achieve individually?

I’ve been educating myself in micro-finance to support energy networks to grow the renewable sectors in Kenya. I’d love to encourage an integrated peer-to-peer energy market place in Kenya.

Are you noticing any engineering trends in Kenya? Specifically around responsible and sustainable approaches and regulations?  

Energy-efficient technology is catching on in Kenya. For example, people want to buy energy-efficient light bulbs at the local markets, and over the last three to four years people are seeing the advantages of using Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to replace coal or firewood. LPG is not necessarily renewable, but it has a reduced impact in comparison to coal or firewood. It’s slow progress, and wider adoption needs to be supported by legislation – but a growing environmental awareness is noticeable within communities.

What was the Engineers Without Borders UK review experience like for you?

I reviewed reports on biogas and biomass solutions in India, which were close to issues affecting communities in Africa. Considering this, I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what techniques were being suggested in different communities across the world so I could apply them in my own work. This sharing of ideas and perspectives is one of the most valuable elements of Engineers Without Borders UK.

Why is globally responsible engineering so important?

Many disasters are avoidable, this is particularly true in Kenya. If a doctor makes a mistake, one life is lost – which is still a great loss. If an engineer makes a mistake, many many lives could be lost. We all bear a collective responsibility to put the right infrastructure in place.

What advice would you give to engineers to ensure we are serving all people and the planet? 

Connect with the people you are trying to help – community led solutions are key. It’s so easy to get lost in the technical specifications of a project and forget that certain aspects of your proposed solution may not work for the community. By working closely with the community you can ensure that no time and effort is wasted on unsuitable proposals. Additionally, I’ve been lucky enough to work a lot with data science during recent years which has proved to be incredibly useful – where ever possible, use evidence-based data analysis to inform decision making.

George Mosomi: Energy Efficiency Officer, Kenya

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