Why Is DfID Pushing Solar-Only When Africans Say They Want On-Grid Electricity?
By Ben Leo | OCTOBER 23, 2015
Yesterday the UK government formally launched its much-awaited Energy Africa campaign, which aims to accelerate electricity access for rural Africans. In a surprise move, DfID’s new plans include only support for small-scale solar power solutions. Typically these systems provide just enough power for a LED light bulb or two and a cellphone charger (see here and here for a few DfID favorites).
That is hardly transformational access. Granted, it could have an incremental impact at the household level. A little electricity is better than none. And replacing expensive and polluting diesel generators with clean power is a good thing. Beyond this, however, DfID seems to have been captured by the environmental NGOs’ narrative about leapfrogging over traditional energy systems and meeting the need for transformational energy access with renewable off-grid solutions. The reality is that most people want access to “real electricity” that can at least power appliances like televisions, fans, radios, and perhaps even a small business. By that, they usually mean a reliable and affordable connection to the national grid.
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