It’s a Go! Hydrobox and NETFUND sign agreement to build first Hydrobox for Kenyan government !

In the final weeks of 2019, the Belgian Council of Ministers approved a grant to build the first grid-connected Hydrobox for the Kenyan government. On 23th June 2020, the negotiations between Hydrobox and NETFUND were concluded, kicking off the start of this exciting project !

It all began with John Magiro Wangari, a young Kenyan entrepreneur from Njumbi in Murang’a. Growing up, the closest electric pole was 15km away. But he looked around and saw his neighbours using bicycles to charge their mobile phones. He repurposed that idea to design a turbine. His concept was based on the bicycle dynamo and powered by the local river. This prototype allowed him to generate limited electricity for his house and the nearby community. His idea won several awards and caught the attention of Thomas Poelmans of Hydrobox, who helped john scale up his project to a business. Together, they currently operate 3 OFF-grid power plants in Murang’a County Kenya.

But the collaboration went much further than that. John and Thomas also became partners in Hydrobox and conceptualised the first ON-grid containerised hydro power plant for Kenya that will be supplying power to the national electricity grid, hence adding power and contributing to the stability of the grid. This first ‘Hydrobox’ will provide electricity for about 25,000 users.

The project is made possible thanks to financial support received from FINEXPO. Hydrobox applied for financing through their SME Instrument because it’s tailored for Belgian SMEs exporting innovative products to government clients. At the same time, this fits into Hydrobox’ overarching goal to develop a significant number of hydropower plants throughout Kenya. This project will be the first large-scale power plant providing power directly to the national electricity grid and the partners are already planning for an additional 10 installations.

The purpose of the project is to showcase an easy and innovative way to supply additional power and stabilize the national electricity grid in areas suffering from frequent outages with minimal environmental impact.

The parties believe the project is a scalable solution for the improvement and development of sustainable renewable energy in Kenya.

About the partnership

The story of John Magiro and Hydrobox are a testament to the role of local expertise and the role that private companies can plan in furthering development goals. Thomas Poelmans leveraged his international experience and networks to source expertise and funding while John Magiro utilised his community passion and on-ground knowledge to translate the project from an idea into a business.

Now that the Kenyan Government is on-board via NETFUND, the possibilities are greatly expanded, so this small hydroelectric power plant can spread to the rest of Kenya. We’ll continue to update you on the progress of this exciting project.

About the parties

Hydrobox’ mission is to provide reliable, sustainable and affordable access to energy by offering an innovative solution relying on the most affordable and sustainable source of energy: small hydropower. Hydrobox is engaged in the development of standardized, containerized and remotely monitored power plants that combine different innovative technologies to provide an adequate answer to the challenges traditional hydropower plants are struggling with.

NETFUND is organized under Kenyan law as a semi-autonomous state agency under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. NETFUND is engaged in designing and delivering highly impactful (pilot) projects that are aimed at solving environmental challenges in Kenya in a scaleable manner.

FINEXPO is the inter-ministerial advisory committee within the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in Belgium. Through its “SME Instrument”, FINEXPO promotes the export of Belgian innovations to governmental actors in developing countries, in particular those with a high social impact.