Do you think that the problem for rural communities is whether users are willing to pay?
Dynamism and capacity to adapt has been proved by the many new uses of Mobile phones in that continent, starting with their leading position in mobile payments.
Whilst it is true that a large history of subsidies have created a deep misconception in capitals and large urban centers in Africa, this approach does not adapt to rural locations.
PAYG systems and competing companies in East Africa show that people are not only ready to pay, but also to invest in having access to Energy.
The question, in my point of view, is how we can accelerate the transition from a centralized, unidirectional organizational and legislation approach to electrification and make it evolve to a decentralized mini-grid approach. The models are already in place. The WB sponsored study "from the bottom up", shows how to do it.
The question is now if authorities decide to do it or not.
In our case (Yiitidi.com) we have been waiting for a regulatory change for a year to put in place 15+ mini-grids in a first stage launch of decentralized mini-grids. In this country, recent studies show that it will be too expensive to try to provide electricity to a large part of the country with centralized grid, and that the only solution are isolated mini-grids. Thus, efforts should be directed to allow private capital to risk their money, instead of following the old centralized approach.
Exactly, but as it has been proved, poor people already spend money in buying energy -at very expensive prices-. Kerosene lamps, mobile charging drain rural poor's resources without providing a solution.
Pay as you Go Systems have the advange of allowing the poor to invest in the equipment, but Power solutions are not apt for small business' needs.
Isolated minigrid can fill the gap providing both the energy to small businesses -fridge, small machines- as well as lighning in the houses.
Thank you for your contributions. Very good points!
Paying for electricity might need some local development and information sharing however, these rural communities will want the benefit that electricity brings and therefore will be willing to partake in such programs. As with mobile communication in our region, the challenge will be to find strong business models where the initial investment will not be encumbered. Mobile operators in Africa find it difficult to invest into rural Africa due to investment criterion not being met and is always looking for solutions that require less capital investment. Revenue per user always decline rapidly the more these networks expand into rural areas and therefore placing a burden and slowing down the process to provide communication to rural Africa.
Mini-grids is a good initiative however to make this model work for the long term, these deployments must coincide and con-exist with other industries i.e. mobile networks, mining, forestry etc. From a strong and sustainable base these min-grid deployments can expand and offer electricity access to rural Africa.
You are describing Yiitidi's business model. As you say, minigrid requires an anchor to which sell the bulk of the production. But then, SLA require excess capacity that can be monetized by selling it to a microgrid, providing the so much needed electricity to households and small businesses. Specially the business have load requirements which exceed by far the capacity of standard PAYG systems.
Instead of Inviting Investment and technological advancements, current availability and life style practices should be evaluated. This will give 20-30% advantage on new options explored.
What is current resource availability ?
Main focus would be on mapping water, wind, solar radiation for targeted population. Water requirements can be met with wind pumps/solar pumps for drawing water . Even rain fall patterns mapped correctly would help in sufficing drinking water requirement after harvesting. Grey water recycled could be used for irrigating small cluster of farms, ( reducing water for irrigation). Even Toilets(sanitation) linked to biogas could work in providing gas for cooking or heating. Solar cookers can work during peak solar hours for steaming base foods, biogas can support cooking with non solar hours. Water purification with solar purifiers with solar dryers are good options.
Integration of solar, wind, Biogas, is a challenge but measured, managed solutions for full life-cycles would defiantly make people sustainable without migrating to urban ghetos. Moreover migration to urban area would lower.
Funding of this resources and stakeholder engagement would be second challenge. For under developed countries stake holders are keen to invest projects which can benefit long term sustainability. Their main challenge is to map a community with common goals on agenda. A local organisation are key to such projects. Mapping resources, a community resolution to optimise resource with sustainability will attract investors and stakeholders. Responsive end user feed back on Evaluation and monitoring would be key to project success.
Measuring current needs and resources, optimising the usage, capitalising on technologies, evaluating target outputs will help in addressing current problem of Energy and Poverty.
https://steama.co/ is award winning startup providing measuring solutions for rural communities in Africa.
Steama is a fantastic solution for metering. But it is difficult to meter things other than power, water and Gas. But then , for an efficient metering, water and gas must be served at a minimum pressure, which rules out de facto most small bio gas facilities and many water installations-
Furthermore, the integration of systems is always difficult, in many ways. The further the complexity of a system, the more prone to require maintenance, which is a key element in most remote locations. I'd rather think about independent systems -even if there is an efficiency loss-, rather than complex integrations
Hi folks! Let me say I am happy to be back. I have been following the discussions. Heavy work schedules have been 'denying' me time to share my thoughts but not this time. First of all, let's go back to the preamble. Are you saying "Only 28 percent of Africa's rural communities have currently access to energy'? Is it energy, modern energy or electricity? It is not clear. If it is energy then it is not true, else they would all have perished by now. The definition must be checked. Then also looking at the map legend, indicating generation of electricity in billions of kWh. In my view, it does not make that much sense. A country is generating billions of electricity and for what purpose? The key is usage. If Nigeria with population of about 200 million is generating that much and yet the universal coverage of public electricity is less than 50% then it is not impressive. Compare to South Africa with a population of about 60 million with installed capacity over 65,000 MW and national grid or public electricity coverage of over 85%, that is encouraging. Again compared to Nigeria's installed capacity of less than 10,000 MW. So I suggest we reproduce the map to reflect national public or grid electricity coverage and or kWh per capacity. Mozambique in that category is also not a true reflection considering that most of the electricity produced is wheeled to South Africa. Here I am not talking of just electricity, if just electricity, then coverage in Nigeria rises to over 50% due to large penetration of private gensets.
Now back to the question. From Ghana's experience, it is not that much a problem when applied to potable water sales. Already rural communities have their own way of paying for potable water; some pay by per bucket full, some also pay on monthly bases largely for the maintenance of the water system, being borehole or standing water tap. Electricity however is the challenge. Of course, water is life and there is no substitute. But without electricity, one would still survive.
There are however interesting developments taking place in off-grid areas. Rural dwellers are moving away from kerosene lamps to dry-cell or battery-powered lamps which provide superior lighting; they find the lamps largely coming from China, cheaper and easy to operate. Also clean, no fumes. The challenge has been with the replacement of the dry cells. In fact kerosene lamp use dropped from 52% in 2000 to just 18% in 2010 whilst battery lamps jumped from below 1% to 18% in 2010.
Those who can afford move on to solar lanterns which has also become very popular. The energy sector ministry has so far sold over 3 million units to rural dwellers.
I guess I have written a lot for now. I will come back as the discussion progresses.
Thank you for taking time to collaborate on the subject. You are indeed correct, I've changed the wording to reflect access to power and not access to energy. It is encouraging to read about the progress Ghana made pertaining to superior and cleaner lighting. In addition, to read about the communities approach to access to clean water furthermore offers valuable insight. One important dynamic, as you eluded to, is to understand consumer behaviour relating to a service that is important for rural communities but not an absolute necessity, as with water. Distributed and cleaner power will come at a significant cost, especially in its infancy, and therefore the local consumer remains a key component in the business case. Distributed power is required, as one of the means to generate power, to address the power deficit in Africa. It offers many advantages such as higher power efficiency, lower investment, shorter implementation time frames etc. In the short-term one can focus on the business case "hot-spots" however this will only address the deficit in a fragmented manner. The local consumer therefore must be considered.