Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factories have reduced the amount of energy used to process a kilo of green tea by an average 15 per cent over the past four years.
The reduction in both electricity and firewood consumption was recorded between 2013 and 2017 through an energy efficiency programme by the agency, Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) and German Development Agency (GIZ).
This is good news for smallholder tea farmers as energy accounts for up to 30 per cent of factory running costs. The more energy-efficient a factory is, the less the cost of energy. This translates to better earnings for the farmer.
Each factory on average reduced its energy consumption from 35.21 to 29.76 Mega joules for a kilo of processed tea.
“The project’s main aim is to improve the energy efficiency for our factories to reduce energy consumption so that the extra money that would have been used in energy goes to the farmer,” said KTDA Management Services Operations Director Alfred Njagi.
The factories have been employing a mix of initiatives, including regular energy audits and replacement of standard machine parts (like withering fans and motors) with high efficiency ones, to bring down energy consumption.
The factories are also insulating their steam systems to prevent heat loss and save on the amount of wood fuel used.
Other initiatives include the installation of LED lights, which consume less power, training production staff on energy efficiency and installation of air pre-heaters in boilers which helps cut wood fuel consumption by about five per cent.
Ndima Tea Factory recorded the biggest improvement, reducing its energy use for a kilo of tea by 38 per cent.
Mataara recorded a 34 per cent drop, Ogembo (36 per cent), Gathuthi (26 per cent), Igembe (16 per cent), Momul (29 per cent) and Chebut (16 per cent) representing the best performers in their respective regions. Mungania Tea Factory has been recognised as the most energy-efficient of all KTDA-managed factories.