“How Daystar Power is closing sub-Saharan Africa’s Energy Gap”:Exclusive interview with Christian Wessels

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Renewable hybrid systems are becoming the preferred energy sources, and new technologies and their ability to integrate the utilisation of varying fuel sources, are increasing the competitive edge of solar hybrid systems.

The speed of solar deployment and its steeply declining cost in comparison with the cost and speed of the deployment of the infrastructure for gas and other energy sources, means the demand for renewables is increasing especially for deployment in off-grid and mini-grids.

In this Exclusive Interview, Christian Wessels, Co-founder and CEO, DayStar Power Energy Solutions , speaks on his firm’s role in addressing Africa’s power needs.

AYOBAMI ADEDINNI brings the excerpts :

Green Energy is the new conversation in the global Energy space. What are some of the milestones Daystar Power has achieved?

We are up to something amazing and this is to close the power gap in Africa and to contribute as much as we can to the deployment of renewable energy solutions.

This means we want to provide clean, affordable and reliable power.

If you look at our journey, you will see that we have come a long way.

We established Daystar Power two years ago and now our business has more than 125 power systems in Nigeria, Ghana and Togo, which were designed, implemented and now serviced by our team of 80 highly qualified engineers and professionals.

We delivered our first project two years ago to the German Army, which is supporting the Nigerian government and the Nigerian Army in socially important projects. Daystar Power deployed a solar solution for a first level intensive care hospital in Kaduna, to be inaugurated in November with representation of both countries and top military officials.

From there, we have provided further power solutions to businesses in the Banking sector, as well as schools or manufacturing companies in Nigeria and across West Africa.

Access to Finance is a major concern in the industry, how have you been able to tackle this?

Our mission is about serving businesses with innovative solutions which is only possible if we can mobilize funding.

We have raised fund with a lot of work. As we stand today, we are supported by the German Development Bank, who came in very early, and by many investors from Europe who invested via a Crowdfunding platform.

We are additionally supported by Verod Capital Management, one of the leading private equity firms headquartered here in Lagos in Nigeria and Persistent Energy.

Let me be clear, securing funding has been one of the most critical milestones on our journey. I have to say that particularly in the early stages of Daystar Power we had some sleepless nights and worked very hard to secure the necessary funding to support our goals.

Where are the services of Daystar Power targeted?

Daystar Power targets commercial & industrial clients located in both the hinterland and cities. We have installed systems in 26 states, with the vision of operating in every state of Nigeria by 2020.

What are your expansion goals?

A lot of our clients in Nigeria have reached out to us willing to replicate our solutions across their West African subsidiaries and operations.

To that end, we need to consider our offer as a solution not just for the Nigerian market but for global development.

This is for two very simple reasons- it’s cheaper and environmentally friendly.

Solar is currently more affordable than coal, gas or any other alternative sources. We also include more storage system to deliver a comprehensive power solution.

Renewable energy is set up for such a huge success particularly in West Africa where we have such a power gap.

The second factor to point out is the significant environmental impact. Climate change is real and has severe impact, affecting Nigeria as well. The world is where it is and we can’t just say because we have other problems, we should forget the environment.

I think we should not see a trade-off between economic development and the environment. It can go hand in hand.

We have been able to provide affordable and yet clean power in rural and urban settings.

You can’t power or grow an economy on the back of diesel Generators. this is why I believe there is a global success story unfolding for Renewables.

 

However, renewable energy has made it possible to combine economic development with an environmentally friendly approach, and we plan to provide our solutions across West Africa.

How has Daystar Power been operating within the Regulatory framework?

Regulation and compliance with local laws is a critical prerequisite to our business and we ensure to always be compliant.

We see a Nigerian government that is a huge promoter of Renewable energy utilization. From our view, the government is ready to bring a change to the sector.

Also, we do not see ourselves being in competition with other private sector institutions. We are all working towards the same goal of affordable power for the entire country.

E-waste Recycling is relatively new in Nigeria. With your company, Green Compass Recycling, how do you hope to breakthrough?

It’s been very challenging but there are a lot of good things about the sector. First, the regulator is very progressive about this. Essentially, we have the right laws and very supportive regulators.

The Private sector however has to come together to achieve the goal of a vibrant recycling industry. So far, there have been a few initiatives from the private sector.

Think about it.

Many of the International companies that operate in Nigeria have global initiatives.

For us at Daystar Power, we are constantly exploring ways of providing solutions for our own products.

We want to be a company that has fully integrated the circular economy principles in its business processes.

Do you have any success story in the sector?

Sometimes, it’s also good to not dwell on success stories because there’s so much more to be done.

What’s your company policy on Gender Balance?

We put a lot of emphasis on Gender Balance, which can be seen in our leadership structure.

Gender balance for Daystar Power is about empowering women and providing them with an enabling environment. We invest a lot of time on staff, especially on female engineers who we have customized training programs for.

As a result, our MD in Ghana is a Nigerian lady below the age of 30, while other positions like CFO, Head of Logistics, Head of Finance, and Head of HR, are all led by women.

This is a very important topic for the company and for our time. We want to meet global standards and where we can, surpass them.

What’s your work ethics?

Customer first. We are committed to innovation at all times. We are also on a mission.

We believe we’ve been given the opportunity of a lifetime which has informed our customer focus and innovation.

We may be small compared to some of the bigger companies of the World but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the same aspirations. Our dreams and ambitions are big, but also our energy is relentless to pursue them.

Where do you see Daystar Power in the next five years?

In the next five years, we see Daystar Power as the leading Renewable energy company in Nigeria and West Africa, with solutions across the region increasing the access to energy.

At the pace we are going, we believe we will be a major player in sector providing commercial and industrial operators with clean and reliable energy. We also envision partnerships with other likeminded institutions.

What would be your advice to up and coming entrepreneurs interested in the sector?

In the pursuit of your entrepreneurial objectives, you first need to be willing to learn. Critically review everything you are working on – without taking shortcuts.
Also, build a team of committed and likeminded people, which share your objectives.

Then, keep on going. Do not give up, ever.

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