30 Aug Why Solar is the Solution to Africa’s Electricity Crisis
Thomas Edison said almost two centuries ago that “We shall make electric light so cheap that only the wealthy can afford to burn candles”; but today in Africa over 600 million people still lack access to grid electricity, and the estimate is growing with the rapidly increasing population.
Several types of research conducted show that Africa is still far from achieving the required electrification level. For example, 93 million Nigerians still rely on charcoal and firewood to generate light and someone in Mali uses in a whole year the equivalent of electricity used in boiling water with a kettle twice in the U.K.
Unlike the other well-publicised issues, the extent of energy poverty in Africa is little known even though the impact is greater than some of the other epidemics. At the basic level, stable and reliable electricity is required for economic progress and power shortages reduce growth by 2 to 4% annually.
Additionally, the fumes from firewood, kerosene lanterns and petrol/diesel generators kill around 600,000 people a year. Carbon emitted from diesel/petrol generators in Nigeria, for example, is an average of 23,000 kilograms per annually per generator. Moreover, children do not have access to light for study and health care centers are not able to use state of the art technology that requires the constant and reliable supply of electricity.
However on the other side of the above-stated issues are highly profitable economic opportunities. Sub-Sahara Africa is home to the world’s most abundant sunshine and is apt for Solar power projects. With the drop in Solar panel prices as a result of innovation, companies can now independently take the initiative to implement mini grid Solar projects and provide Off-grid Solar systems to close the wide gap between supply and demand for electricity in Africa.
The massive decentralization of Solar project implementation will, in fact, benefit the poorest segment of the African society. According to an African Panel Report, around 138 million households in Sub-sahara Africa are living on below $2.50 per day but spend a combined $10bn annually on generating electricity from petrol/diesel generators and Kerosene lanterns. This equates to around 80 times more than the price of electricity in London.
Off-grid Solar provides the opportunity to reduce costs drastically. Winock Energy’s customers, for instance, save an average of 30% on electricity cost annually by switching to our off-grid solar system. Other developing countries such as India and Bangladesh have already achieved large-scale adoption of off-grid Solar.
In Bangladesh’s case, more than 3.5m off-grid solar systems have been installed to date. Africa is ripe for an aggressive adoption of Off-grid Solar and the customers can afford it because they previously spent more on Petrol/diesel generators and Kerosene Lanterns but the lack of access to finance is stifling this potential.
On the other hand, developed countries have matured to the point whereby it is difficult to earn a previously achievable return on investment. Winock Energy is working hard to unlock growth in Off-grid Solar adoption in West Africa by providing investors the opportunity to take advantage of higher returns by leveraging on Winock Energy’s market knowledge and financial management expertise in leasing off-grid Solar systems to customers.
Electricity has been the main catalyst for growth in developed countries and widely available data shows the rate at which availability of stable and reliable electricity can reduce poverty and steer economies in the right direction, therefore helping Africans to gain access to much-needed electricity supply through Off-grid Solar initiatives should be on the mind of every well-meaning person.