Lighting Up Off-Grid Ghana

Thomas George

Reducing the world’s energy poverty by providing electricity and energy services to off-grid rural households is an important task, but a huge challenge. Households without electricity often light their homes with kerosene lamps or battery-powered flashlights, both of which are expensive on a per-watt hour or per-lumen basis. Moreover, kerosene is highly polluting and poses significant health risks to its users, as its fumes are toxic and lamps can tip over and cause fires.

Village solar micro-grids can emerge as a viable solution to deal with energy poverty, especially in Africa. Persistent Energy Ghana has taken the lead in this direction by providing solar energy services to off-grid low-income Ghanaian households through microfinance banks. Village solar micro-grids and pay-as-you-go solar home systems in the Eastern and Greater Accra Regions of Ghana provide people with basic energy services including lighting, mobile phone charging, fans, radio, and TV. Such services are convenient and affordable because people can purchase energy credit from local agents in any amount.

Persistent Energy Ghana believes that there is a significant opportunity to provide over 1 million off-grid Ghanaians with renewable, affordable energy services. Ghanaians without electricity currently spend approximately $7 per month to light their homes with kerosene or flashlights, and another $2 per month to charge their mobile phones. For that amount, PEG can offer more abundant and less hazardous lighting and mobile phone charging solutions.

After a successful pilot program, Persistent Energy Ghana is now scaling up its work. A newly developed plan is to enroll 5,000 households by 2015 and over 25,000 by 2016. Global Energy Initiative encourages and promotes projects like this, considering such initiatives can play an important role in combating energy poverty, especially in remote rural areas.

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