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These were the words spoken by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank back in 2016. On the back of this statement, it was announced that Africa would be scrapping coal power stations across the continent and shift its focus towards renewable forms of energy. A $500 million green baseload scheme is scheduled to be rolled out and it’s not hard to see why.
Nearly 110 million Africans still live without electricity access, with about four in ten Africans lacking an electricity connection in their homes. Most of the households are either too far away from a power grid or aren’t even connected. Interestingly for those households that are connected to a grid, a constant supply of power is highly unlikely and unreliable. Factoring in the high costs associated with an electric connection and the reliability issues, many households are reluctant in getting on to a power gird.
And that is a key factor here. If something is unreliable and does not work half the time, people are unlikely to adopt it or buy in to it. And this brings up a very interesting point in Africa’s extremely ambitious plan for establishing its alternate energy project and that is to create a critical power grid that is reliable and works as advertised. The more people see that it works, the more likely it is to be adopted. As such the need to establish and deliver a dependable and secure power grid is extremely important.
Another significant factor are the costs. In 2009, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited focused on connecting impoverished neighbourhoods in India by reducing charges and offering affordable 24-month payment plans, waiving outstanding dues and making the overall process of connecting households to the power grid easier. These solutions need to be adopted in Africa where the general consensus is that the process is complex and extremely irregular depending on the area that they are in.
With Africa embarking on its alternate energy drive, it has a chance to start things off on the right foot from the get-go and create a truly remarkable project that has the potential to make electricity available to all of its 1.3 billion population. By partnering with the right companies who are leading the way in innovative solutions and recognizing energy solutions that improve the lives and livelihoods of its people, Africa has the opportunity to drive economic development and expansion of technologies.
This is seen in the partnership with Africa Power and USAID and its associated project “Beyond the Grid” where they have partnered with 40 investors and companies to invest in “off-grid” energy solutions. Its through this project that households that are beyond the already established power grids have access to power through solar home panels and mini grid connections. Not only have these solutions created an economic boom by supporting productive uses in these neighbourhoods; it has driven innovation and alternate solutions to help solve Africa’s energy problem.
How Africa approaches its ambitious alternate energy solution project has fully yet to present itself. But keeping an open mind and partnering with innovative companies is a step in the right direction and at the risk of sounding banal, the future looks bright.
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