Tanzanian solar energy innovation aims at bridging energy gap in Africa

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 14, 2017
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AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands, June 13 (Xinhua) -- A Tanzanian innovation that allows people in rural areas to buy electricity generated by a leased solar panel and eventually obtain the ownership of the panel through low payments via cheap mobile phones, was awarded at a global clean energy innovations competition here on Tuesday.

"Many people in rural communities in Africa don't have access to the national grid nor smart phones with mobile payment for electric utilities as people in urban areas. Our system provides a way for people in those areas to access and pay for solar electricity on a daily, weekly or monthly basis," Richard Awuor, innovator of the "pay-as-you-go" solar energy rental system, told Xinhua.

The system won second prize at "The Bright Minds Challenge", a competition spearheaded by DSM, a Dutch company engaged in health, nutrition, and materials businesses worldwide.

A total of 55 researchers from 22 countries submitted their patent-ready solar and energy storage innovative solutions.

Awuor embarked on developing the system two and half years ago after realizing that giving better access to electricity was not possible by operating within the conventional solar panels market.

"Less than 25 percent of the population in most sub-Saharan countries have no access to electricity. They are using kerosene lamps and candles, which are not renewable and cause respiratory health issues," said Awuor.

"The majority of these people are rural based, undocumented and live on less than two dollars a day. They cannot access electricity or buy solar panels because they cannot afford them."

With his "pay-as-you-go" system, households can make small payments for electricity, for example, half a dollar or one dollar per day during a lease period while accumulating an amount to obtain the ownership of the solar panel funded and installed by Awuor's company.

"They buy tokens which add up, and once they manage to 'cover' the price of the solar panel, which amounts to 50-60 dollars, they own it," he explained, noting that his system could also be used by electrified households to switch to solar power

The innovator added that further investment is necessary to "take the innovation to more people" as a scaling-up needs access to skills, resources and knowledge in IT as well as in logistics to build the USSD (also referred to as "Quick Codes" or "Feature codes") platform that cheap mobile phones can use. Enditem

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