The COVID-19 pandemic has become a global challenge with unprecedented impact on families, healthcare systems, and economies. It reminds us how interconnected we are and that we share the same fundamental needs. No matter where we live, each of us needs basic services, access to information and the ability to connect with our loved ones. For each of these, we need energy. It is a stark reminder that almost a billion people are facing the lockdown without it – no power to work, no power to charge a phone, none even to turn on a light.
The last compilation report in the Powering Opportunity Series highlights the wide-ranging benefits of solar home systems (SHS) and why the impact and potential of the off-grid solar sector must be protected.
The research found that, whether customers are in East Africa, West Africa or Southern Asia – almost all reported that their quality of life had improved once they had an SHS (between 94-97%) – with most seeing improvements in their health and safety. Solar home systems are powering greater use of mobile phones and are increasingly bought with radios and televisions, helping families and communities to stay connected.
They are proving a key enabler of economic activity. Whether directly powering enterprises, or indirectly extending the working day. The research found that the most common uses of extra productive time unlocked by SHS are agriculture and the sale of produce; while systems are being used to light local shops and charge phones for a fee. These are all essential services. Both now, and for the post COVID-19 recovery.
In East Africa, the cumulative additional time spent working as a result of the systems was found to equal 21 Full-Time-Equivalent (FTEs) for each 100 SHS sold. In West Africa, they reveal eight FTEs are created for every 100 SHS sold, with an additional four FTEs per 100 SHS being unlocked in South Asia. Given the size of the leading off-grid solar markets in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, and India, these results translate to millions of FTEs unlocked by the sector over the last decade and further demonstrate the sector’s potential to drive sustainable development.
Yet the huge impacts gained by the sector are at risk, our recent GOGLA Member survey found that almost half of GOGLA members might face significant financial challenges as a result of the COVID pandemic. This jeopardizes years of hard work building networks and mechanisms to provide clean energy services to hard to reach, low-income and rural households around the world.
We must take action now to safeguard this impact and the potential of the off-grid sector.
Not only will this keep the ‘lights on’ for millions of people, it will ensure that the industry is able to play an important role (re)building sustainable economies and communities, and in boosting resilience for some of the world’s poorest people.
We urge decision-makers from around the world – policymakers, investors, and the international development community – to take note of the fast and cost-effective impacts that are being created by off-grid solutions. We call on them to work with us to protect and support the off-grid solar industry as we drive towards a sustainable energy future.
To learn more about why off-grid solar solutions are critical for the welfare of poor and rural households in East Africa, West Africa and Southern Asia, read our latest report Powering Opportunity: Energising Work, Enterprise and Quality of Life with Off-Grid Solar.