How to Achieve Sustainable Off-Grid Lighting for Africa

Scenarios achieving universal energy access. Credit: GOGLA

Scenarios achieving universal energy access.
Credit: GOGLA

In Africa, about 600 million people have no access to grid electricity, with the figure expected to rise to 700 million by 2030 the report found. They are forced to rely on polluting and dangerous sources of lighting such as kerosene lamps, candles and battery-powered torches, with the poorest of people sometimes spending as much as 10 per cent of their income on fuel for lighting. Poor households are buying lighting at the equivalent of $US 100 per kilowatt-hour, more than 100 times the amount paid by people in rich countries.

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Kerosene is both expensive and dangerous: stoves and lamps can cause fires, and indoor fumes are blamed for 600,000 preventable deaths each year in Africa alone.

“On average, 76 per cent of the population in West Africa lacks access to electricity and spends up to 20 per cent of the household budget on kerosene, which is potentially damaging to their health and detrimental to the planet’s climate,” said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “Adopting modern, solar-powered solutions could provide these households with less expensive, more-efficient and healthier source of electricity, while boosting productivity and job creation.”

“However, the uptake of off-grid instruments in Africa is being stifled by inadequate and often outdated regulations and subsidy schemes,” he added. ““By incorporating the measures recommended in this report in their energy policies, countries can achieve the 2030 goal of universal sustainable energy access.”

“Introducing fiscal mechanisms, such as VAT and tariff exemptions, as well as promoting minimum quality standards and the sustainable management of spent products can create an enabling environment for the healthier and cheaper off-grid technologies to thrive,” he said.

Market-driven solutions have already provided millions of low-income households beyond the grid with clean and sustainable means of lighting, according to the report. “The demand for these effective, reliable and economically efficient solutions for basic electrification is huge. However, today the market is limited due to a number of avoidable market barriers. These limitations can be overcome by an enabling policy environment that allows the private sector to unfold its full potential,” said Koen Peters, GOGLA Executive Director.

The report showcases success stories in overcoming the financing challenges. Using funds provided by the World Bank, the Government of Ethiopia, with support from Lighting Africa, established a US $20 million financing facility for off-grid solutions. In its first 18 months of operation, this facility enabled over 300,000 quality-verified solar lighting products to be imported, providing 1 million Ethiopians with access to modern energy services.

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