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The Electricity Crisis in Africa
The entire continent of Africa is struggling to attain enough energy to power its homes and businesses. The electricity crisis has impacted on the continent consistently for years, hindering its ability to grow its economy, and lowering the quality of life of its residents.
Urban areas of Africa are finding it hard to come up with a solution to maintain the necessary electricity levels. However, two main problems are being seen across the entire continent. The first is that there are a significant number of people who are out of reach of the continent’s electricity grid who also do not have access to non-traditional energy sources.
The latest statistics estimate that more than 640 million people are living without access to electricity. The second major problem that Africans are facing is that multiple countries are struggling to supply enough energy to its residents' homes and businesses through the grid.
National energy suppliers are known for initiating power cuts that can last from hours to days that have the aim of relieving pressure on the national grid through a process called “load-shedding”.
South Africa is a key example of the energy crisis in Africa. This month, Eskom, South Africa's state-owned energy company, has been initiating numerous power cuts due to increasing load shedding which the country has been subject to for decades.
Government officials recognize that there will be no quick fix to resolve this problem, but it will have to be dealt with effectively to stop the disruption to homes and businesses, which is hurting their already slowing economy. December has seen power cuts happening daily across the country for over a week, mostly related to a large amount of debt that Eskom owes, as well as their failing, poorly maintained power stations.
The situation in South Africa is representative of the issues that countries across the continent are facing. Governments are exploring the options that might provide a long-term resolution to the ongoing problem.
One approach is being explored that will not only bring energy to off-grid households, but it will also take the pressure off the grid by allowing households and businesses to decide to access energy through a pay-as-you-go scheme. Furthermore, the model uses solar technology to generate electricity, helping Africa to move away from fossil fuel resources.
This is of particular importance given that, even though global concern is being raised around the detrimental impact of climate change, Africa is increasing its reliance on fossil fuels, rather than tackling their emissions and making marked efforts to become carbon neutral as many major global regions are doing. The continent has recently expanded its number of coal-burning power stations to address energy capacity shortages; however, this is not seen as a sustainable solution.
Pay-as-You-Go Solar Energy
Pay-as-you-go solar technology has become Africa’s most promising approach to handling the continent’s growing energy problems. Azuri Technologies has established a system called PayGo whereby users pay a small installation fee for a small solar panel that provides up to eight hours of emission-free lighting every day, as well as enough energy to charge mobile phones.
The model began in Sub-Saharan Africa where it tackled the issue of off-grid households not having access to the energy they required. The impact of PayGo has already been seen in this area, with residents reducing their energy spending by up to 50%. The system will also help these areas access sufficient energy without using fossil fuels and will help the continent begin to tackle its emissions.
Helping People and the Economy
Azuri’s pay-as-you-go solar technology system has already been initiated in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Rwanda, Togo, and Ghana. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people now have access to energy that is both affordable and clean. It is estimated that more than 28.5 million hours of clean light and 9.5 million hours of clean phone charging have been generated by the system.
The system is not only offering a cheaper and consistent energy alternative, but it is also bringing energy to households who would have struggled to afford energy bills at all. Azuri is enhancing people’s quality of life by giving them access to power for their homes.
In addition, the pay-as-you-go solar technology demonstrates a model of providing consistent and clean energy that is not subject to the frequent planned power cuts that are characteristic of the fossil fuel-generated energy across the continent.
The future could see development in this technology to help countries in Africa change their energy infrastructure, developing it to rely on reliable solar technology, rather than the fossil fuels that are causing social and economic trouble.
A Clean Energy Future for Africa
Since it began, more than 3,504 tons of carbon dioxide emissions have been avoided due to the use of Azuri’s solar-powered system. Another benefit of the system is that it works with a clean energy source. The use of PayGo has already had a significant impact on the type of energy that is being used by Africans.
Data shows us that before using PayGo, 85% of Azuri customers had been using kerosene lamps. Following the installation of their home solar system, only 17% continued to use kerosene. This shows the potential impact PayGo could have across Africa, helping it switch to clean energy.
The establishment of PayGo and similar projects across Africa are seen as necessary if the region is going to avoid accelerating its fossil fuel projects, which have been deemed unnecessary by energy experts. They have claimed that Africa, having remained behind the rest of the world in implementing fossil fuel infrastructure, could have skipped this stage and taken advantage of renewables instead.
PayGo’s Lasting Impact
The project is important because it demonstrates a feasible way to not only address energy capacity issues that the entire continent of Africa are facing, but it also provides a reliable method for helping establish renewable energy as a main source of power. This helps Africa reverse its acceleration of power plant projects that are mostly focused on coal burning.
Azuri's PayGo could be fundamental in shaping the future energy landscape of Africa, enhancing residents’ quality of life, addressing emissions, and preventing damage to the economy due to power cuts.
Sources and Further Reading