Reaching last mile markets with decentralised renewable energy

February 2018

Blog

“Previously, I would walk to a relative’s house that is connected to the national grid, to charge my cell phone. Now that I have my own solar system, I charge my phone at home and no longer have to feel ashamed of being the head of an underdeveloped household", says Modesta a farmer in Misungwi, Tanzania.

According to the United Nations Foundation, over 1.1 billion people globally still lack access to electricity and are forced to rely on polluting and inconvenient kerosene lamps and batteries to light their houses. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 600 million people live without access to the grid and 30 out of 47 countries in the region experience power shortages on a daily basis. In addition, economic development is hindered because companies cannot operate effectively without access to electricity. Also, like our farmer from Misungwi, many people are forced to travel for miles to neighbors who are connected the grid to access any form of electricity.

Decentralised renewable energy, and in particular Solar PV and mini-grids can solve these issues by providing reliable power and brighter and healthier light. In terms of solar energy systems, these can range from small lighting products such as desk lamps to large kits which comprise of a number of lights and phone charging as well as larger systems that require installation by a trained technician. The latter can provide badly needed employment opportunities in rural areas where job opportunities are few and far between.

In our interview with Margreth Msumi (27) from Tanzania who started her own solar PV installation company following OYE training we can see how important and life changing it can be to create sustainable markets which continue to thrive and develop creating employment opportunities beyond our stay.

However, once the market has been created the question arises - how can we simulate markets and keep them growing in these last mile regions? SNV has recently launched a Call to Action to tackle this matter and looks at how best to ignite the solar market in countries which have been by over flown so far. Read  a blog by Tom Derksen, SNV’s Managing Director for Energy on this issue  - 'Bridging the Solar Divide'

Also, once markets have been established how can they be scaled to reach the ambitious SDG7 target of sustainable energy for all by 2030? An interview with a Koen Peters from GOGLA , an association for the off-grid solar industry looks at this issue of scaling and how it can be managed from an industry perspective. We also look at how innovative financial models such as results-based financing and pay-as-you go models have had a clear impact on the development of the renewable energy market in Tanzania and Benin.

In terms of the future for decentralized renewable energy, we look at the role that it can play in a migration content. An issue that is becoming more prevalent as according to the UNHCR an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. We also meet the Kasanga Alexandre family, a Congolese refugee living in Kakuma refugee camp who were the first people to buy a solar home system as part of a market based energy access project run by SNV.

”We have moved out of dark nights into brighter nights, my wife can cook easily, my children can read comfortably in their room and my family can now sit together after dinner and share quality time even out at the veranda sharing stories without the fear of scorpions - thanks to the SNV project”. Kasanga Alexandre

Furthermore, we look at how the productive use of decentralized renewable energy solutions can help increase resilience to climate change.

Finally, in view of the high level political review of the Sustainable Development Goals which will take place in New York in July, we examine on our progress towards reaching SDG7, where do we currently stand and what can be done to speed up the process helping to achieve the goal of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.