New Campaign Seeks To Bring Electricity To Hundreds Of Millions

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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

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Jake Richardson

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20 thoughts on “New Campaign Seeks To Bring Electricity To Hundreds Of Millions

  • Lights are nice but what about an electric tractor imagine what a difference a labor saving device like a tractor would make to people living with only muscle power. The initial expense and the ongoing fuel makes it impossible expensive for many of the worlds poorest people to have a tractor I dont see why a small to mid size tractor could’nt be made for about the same cost as an IC tractor. Then the fuel savings would ameliorate the cost sooner. Plus tractors need some mass to do their job and seldom go more than a mile from their home barn seems like a good fit.

    • every advancement of technology takes the human factor out of the equation. people are paid to work the farms by hand. with say an electric tractor many will be out of jobs. just like robotics did to Americans, it replaced them many americans are out of jobs because of technology. just saying .

      • As their economy develops better jobs will need to be done.

      • We could dig ditches with shovels, but backhoes work better. We make jobs designing, making and training the use of backhoes which are FAR more productive. Productivity brings prosperity if the gains are equitably distributed to those who created and use them.

    • We tried giving African farmers tractors. Guess what? They’re useless without land reform.

      African agriculture is very different from ours. They don’t have large, smooth plots. An individual farmer often has several tiny plots, often spread out (so that a pest or other stress factor won’t wipe out the whole harvest). And in places like Kenya or Rwanda, those plots are more often than not on fertile but hard to access hillsides.

      If you ask farmers what they want, they seldom say ‘big plots and a tractor’. Most ask for things that help them produce a steadier harvest (irrigation, better crop strains, crop protection agents) and for assistance in growing cash crops like coffee so they can invest in something better than subsistence.

      Solar power has a role to play there. It can drive irrigation systems as well as the cool storage and processing equipment needed for cash crops like flowers or fresh fruit. Where available, pocket biogas and geothermal units are even better.

      • Africa is a continent. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea that one size fits all.

        Lots of small field farmers in Southeast Asia use “iron buffalos”, two wheeled tractors that are much smaller than a small US farm tractor but large enough to do serious work as well as haul people and produce when hooked to a trailer. They even drive thrashing machines to separate out the grain.

        Perhaps an electric version would work.

        • Sonalika, an Indian tractor manufacturer, has built two new assembly plants basically to meet demand in Africa. They make small farm tractors of the sort one might see in Europe, although I assume they are made at much lower cost than the average European tractor. As far as I am aware, they don’t yet make solar powered electric tractors, but perhaps that will be coming soon.

      • That makes much more sense for the geography, control of pests, and long standing social structures of Africa – before western development patterns were imposed upon it.

    • You are talking about millions of villagers whose next big investment will be a bike. Tractors of any sort are fantasy to them.

      • India and other countries are exporting increasing numbers of tractors to Africa and more are being manufactured on the continent, so the dream is getting closer to reality.

  • Solar PV + Li-Ion + LED is the holy trinity for providing safe clean lighting anywhere on the planet. Kerosene lamps, candles and other such things need to be eliminated since they release local pollutions inside homes, release greenhouse gases, and they are not cheap.

    • Yes, but I hope we also focus on LED lighting that doesn’t START with a blue led, but maybe something softer to provide a warm candle / fire like glow. It may not seem important now, but it really is, at least in the developed world were TV’s and computers provide 24/7 access to just about anything.

    • I’ll mention the $25 dollar lamp is supposed to be brighter and longer lasting than the cheapest solar lights, but it’s still very expensive. The cheapest solar lights are now at the point where they come free with cat food and chocolate sprinkles in Australia. Mind you, their cheapness shows. Of the two I got, one simply did not work and the other failed soon afterwards.

      • made in china no doubt

        • You can’t sell Chinese solar lights in Australia. China is on the same side of the planet. They have to be made in a country where it is daytime when it’s nightime in Australia.

          • Lol, I like to trip up renewables haters by saying the sun shines all day, never fails.

      • You’re right there do seem to be good quality products for a fraction of the price, including delivery.

        Biggest point – even the good ones cost as much as an empty kerosene lamp.

  • wait now I understand they need electricity but remember the pitfalls of having electricity, “Internet”

  • The health burden created by kerosene lights and wood fires is gigantic, of the same order of magnitude as outdoor air pollution from fossil fuels.
    What I don’t see is the point of another broad-brush campaign. Offgrid solar is commercially viable in Africa, and governments basically just need to get out of the way. There are a few policy issues they need to fix like interoperation of mobile payments systems. The NGOs can go back now to their niche of reaching out to the very poorest.

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