Patrick K. Tonui, GOGLA Head of Policy and Regional Strategy
1.1 billion people living in sub-Saharan Africa will be particularly hard hit by climate change; living through more extreme droughts, heavier flooding and stronger storms. This will happen despite them contributing only 2 - 3% of global CO2 emissions. These changes in climate will further undermine the already vulnerable economic position of millions of people across the region.
Off-grid solar is targeted at these most vulnerable communities. It rapidly improves lives and provides a “triple boost” for climate action: eliminating polluting emissions, building resilience and ensuring that millions are not overlooked in the bid to create the green jobs, growth and enterprise of the future. Here’s how:
Reducing emissions: Solar lanterns, home systems and irrigation help reduce emissions by enabling customers to stop using kerosene and diesel to power their homes, farms and businesses. Thanks to the off-grid solar sector, 78 million metric tons of CO2e emissions have already been avoided since 2010. At the household level, this cuts toxic air pollution; whilst at the international level, it is equivalent to taking 20 coal-fired power plants offline for an entire year.
Building resilience: Off-grid solutions strengthen resilience for hundreds of millions of people, empowering them to better deal with the effects of extreme weather events. Including by:
Enhancing safety nets and basic services: Moving from kerosene to off-grid solar allows families to make savings, or increase their income - creating a vital safety net in times of hardship. Off-grid systems are also used to charge phones - keeping families connected, play TVs and radios - enabling access to information, and power fans - combatting the heat in areas of rising temperature. Off-grid solutions also provide critical infrastructure for businesses and institutions. For example, through solar refrigeration and off-grid cooling that can preserve goods or store vaccines.
Increasing food security and access to clean water: Solar irrigation is also vital for helping communities adapt to the changing climate. Sub-saharan Africa will be the hardest hit by the effects of climate-induced droughts, with life-threatening impacts to rain-fed agriculture. Off-grid solar water systems are already increasing yields for thousands of small-holder farmers, and providing clean safe water to communities across the continent.
Powering disaster response: As well as being less susceptible to damage than larger infrastructure in the face of extreme weather events, off grid solutions can be rapidly deployed once disaster hits. Solar lanterns and home systems have played a critical role in disaster recovery efforts and are increasingly used to provide lighting and communication infrastructure in refugee camps and areas of protracted crisis.
Ensuring the world’s poorest are not overlooked in the clean energy transition: The off-grid industry has already created over 370,000 green jobs, and supported countless micro and small businesses to enhance their income: from shops and restaurants opening later at night, to fishermen boosting their catch and entrepreneurs opening video halls. Most of these enterprises are based in rural regions, supporting households living under the poverty line. The off-grid sector will create millions of sustainable jobs and businesses as we strive towards a clean energy transition - ensuring we do not leave behind those least responsible for the climate emergency.