Why Bamburi cement put off mega plans for alternative solar energy

Bamburi cement factory. [Photo: Courtesy]
Bamburi Cement has suspended plans to switch to solar power because of the high cost of the project.

Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Susan Maingi said the firm put off the mega project even after initial findings showed it was the most ideal alternative energy option to cut on their high power bill.

Ms Maingi said they had instead resorted to the use of waste tyres to reduce rising energy costs.

The company spends at least Sh2.4 billion every year from its two operating plants - Mombasa and Nairobi - on electricity alone, making it the second highest power consumer in the country after Kenya Pipeline Company.

Ms Maingi said to make a significant drop in the cost of power, they needed to put up a 15 megawatt solar plant as their tentative starting point.

“But for solar to generate 15 MW we needed at least five acres of land. For us, that is just not viable at the moment considering in Mombasa alone, we spend Sh120 million on power every month,” she said.

Recycling

The firm has then opted to utilise waste tyres with support from a renowned recycling firm, Geocyle, which is a project that has been incorporated into the company’s sustainability agenda to safeguard the environment.

This, she noted, had however not led to significant reduction of the cost of power.

“Basically we still need electricity to turn the machines but it has reduced some costs when it comes to other alternative forms of energy that are required to produce heat,” said Maingi.

And to do this, Bamburi has turned to worn out tyres and agricultural wastes like coffee and rice husks in Uganda and Mwea scheme in Kirinyaga County respectively. So far, the company has managed to recycle at least 400,000 tonnes of tyres to energy.

As part of his grand economic plans for the next five years upon re-election, President Uhuru Kenyatta said his Government would give power discounts to manufacturers.

He said manufacturers who would switch their operations to between 10pm to 6am will have a 50 per cent discount.

Bamburi Cementsolar energySusan Maingi