A new campaign wants to bring electricity to hundreds of millions of people in areas where there currently is none. Power For All was founded on the belief that universal electricity access can be achieved before 2030. Currently, over one billion people worldwide don’t have access to electricity.
The organization advocates for decentralizing electricity production and getting off of fossil fuels. In other words, using renewable energy sources like solar power combined with some energy storage technology, rather than building new coal plants. Going “beyond the grid” can bypass special interests that want to control electricity production and determine consumer costs, while influencing politics and public policy to their own financial advantage.
When cities, towns and villages make their own electricity, they have control of that vital element, and are not subject to authoritarian structures that manipulate and even sometimes abuse them. Decentralized electricity production may also increase competition in the marketplace because of the diversity of systems, and greater community involvement.
Africa has plenty of sunlight, and solar panels have never been cheaper. Their cost may drop again in the next several years. Also, energy storage in the form of battery systems appears to be catching up with renewable energy.
“In East Africa, only 23% of Kenyans, 10.8% of Rwandans and 14.8% of Tanzanians have electricity, the World Bank says,” according to a recent BBC article. Many Africans currently use kerosene for lamps, but it is subject to price gouging and cost fluctuations and must be purchased continually.
Solar lamps and solar panels have an upfront cost, but wind up paying for themselves. So, solar power in some contexts makes better sense financially, and is not only about environmental concerns.
After recovering the initial cost, solar panels and lamps provide free electricity, and light that is much cleaner, meaning there are no fumes. There also won’t be any accidental fires. Again, the benefit goes beyond the environmental. In this case, it improves human health.
Image Credit: Power For All