Bridging the solar energy divide

Bridging the solar energy divide

Around 1.1 billion people do not have access to electricity, and the hardest hit communities are in sub-Saharan Africa. Renewable energy, in particular solar energy, is one of the ways we can help to meet the energy needs of those who do not have access to on-grid sources.

Although solar energy has penetrated a number of markets across the developing world, the penetration is very unevenly spread. This situation prompted SNV to launch our “Call to Action – Igniting Solar Energy Markets” at the recent Vienna Energy Forum.

The objective of this call, is to provide energy access to 5 million households, in 5 African countries within a 5 year period. Within this time frame, we aim with the help of partners to distribute 5 million Lighting Global certified, entry level solar products to low income communities. Entry level solutions are the focus of this call, as experience in other countries has shown that these products will pave the way for further solar market development. Also, the impact of entry level solar solutions cannot be under-estimated. Replacing kerosene with solar lamps offers returns of 15-45 times the cost of the solar light.

Furthermore, with the current level of energy access in developing countries and the slow pace of grid extension, off-grid solutions will be needed for many decades to come, therefore it is imperative to support the development of sustainable, inclusive markets, ensuring that low income people have access to affordable, reliable and economically viable technologies.

The launch event which was opened by Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All, and special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy who congratulated SNV on taking leadership with this important initiative and saying “What I like about this ambition is the integrated approach - it focuses on supply, on demand as well as on quality. This Call to Action is a good example of market creation and transformation at scale. It will bring attention to countries that are often flown over by the solar market”.

Through this Call to Action, we aim to work with partners to activate last mile distribution of entry level solar products in underserved markets. This will be achieved by triggering market parties to distribute quality products as a first step in building the market for sustainable, off-grid electrification. Also, by creating and incentivising sustainable supply and demand for energy products and by improving the enabling environment. Countries potentially being considered for this call to action are Benin, Burkina Faso, DRC, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia.