Interview with Okey Esse, the Chief Executive Officer of POWERSTOVE Ltd

POWERSTOVE Ltd is a manufacturer of clean cook stove in Nigeria.  In this interview, the Chief Executive Officer, Okey Esse shares the vision and activities of his company in the clean cooking industry in Nigeria.

Give us a brief introduction of your organisation. What motivated the conceptualization of Power Stove Ltd?
I grew up in the village and cooking with firewood was the only option, thick smokes, unbearable heat and uncontrollable fires were childhood memories that haunted me while growing up. So, when I graduated from the University, I began working on using my Physics knowledge to start a clean cooking company that manufactures Tier 4 smart IoT-enabled clean cookstove that self-generates electricity to charge mobile phones and power home appliances using sustainable bio-pellets produced from wood and post-harvest crop wastes. Our company was launched in 2018.

What does your organization seek to achieve in the Nigerian cooking energy market?
We are disrupting traditional cooking with advance clean cooking stoves that solves energy poverty for cooking and lighting. We are also giving Nigeria a rare opportunity to cook with our sustainable, clean Bio-Pellets and save 80% of daily fuel costs when compared with charcoal, firewood or even kerosene.

What are the opportunities identified in the country that have facilitated the growth of your clean cooking activities?
There is a large population of households that still relies on traditional cooking methods and this has been a huge market opportunity for us. Also, unending availability of raw materials to produce the Bio-Pellets locally has ensured that our Bio-Pellets price has remained constant for 2 years running despite pressures to increase the costs.
Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How do your clean cooking activities help drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
As at July 2022, we have 73 full time workforce and women make up of 65% of these workers. Under Direct Sales Reps and Product Ambassadors, Powerstove has created another 81 jobs, making it a total employment of 154 persons.

If you are asked to advise the federal government of Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the market?
The government needs to do three vital things for the clean cooking technology manufacturers:

  1. Federal government should introduce a robust tech-driven subsidy system that will help us earn cashback based on supporting COP26 which Nigeria is a signatory to and our environmental sustainability projects.
  2. Federal government should introduce a special recharge token/code or electricity meter that can discount energy bills to support the high cost of electricity bills charged to manufacturers.
  3. Federal government should increase the Import Duties and VAT for imported clean cookstoves to support locally produced clean cookstoves in Nigeria.
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If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
As at today, July 2022; a liter of diesel costs N803-N805 per liter.This is a 430% increase compared to February 2021. To put it in perspective, as at February 2021, we use around N5,500 to a fill 25 liter of jerrican, today N25,000 cannot fill same 25 liters jerrican. Due to the volume of our production, we spend a minimum of N150,000 daily on diesel expenses. This means scaling and sustaining our operations will affect the retail prices of our products, or we lay off some staff. We are walking on a tight rope to balance daily cost of diesel, high cost of electricity and increasing cost of raw materials. Government needs to urgently step in to support local manufacturers.

Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years?
We envisage to be the No 1 Clean Cooking company in Africa and Middle East.

What risk does your organization currently face and what is your biggest challenge?
The biggest risk and challenges we face are poor power supply, higher costs of transporting goods across cities in Nigeria, and changes in accessing foreign currencies for imported raw materials.

What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
To move the clean cooking energy market forward, more campaigns should be made so households understand the need to switch to clean cooking stoves and fuels. There is also need to create partnerships with state governments. Further, we need a facility to de-risk market entry for clean cookstove companies and create a strong Asset Management Portfolio that stand as surety to members that wants to access foreign loans at attractive interests.

Is there any other thing you would like to share?
Powerstove is launching the biggest Carbon Credit Project in the World in this Q3 2022 and will welcome local companies that want to join us at no fee to sell their own clean cookstoves carbon credits on a revenue-share model.

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