- The first tackles the problem of unreliable energy grids, which affect one-third of the global population.
- Many communities, living on the grid in urban areas still suffer poor or limited service and can face long stretches without power or are forced to turn to pollute expensive diesel generators.
In Africa, the plummeting price of off-grid clean energy equipment from solar panels to batteries creates exciting new possibilities.
Rooms properly lit for the first time, new internet connections, and powered up businesses bringing higher incomes and economic security.
But a cheaper kit alone is not enough to spark the energy revolution needed. Across Africa, almost 600 million people go without access to electricity.
That’s why the continent’s innovators are developing new services and business models to drive progress even faster, particularly for the most vulnerable groups and communities.
With the support of funders, politicians, urban planners and others, these innovators can make universal energy access a reality, creating an integrated system with benefits for everyone.
This means better health, higher incomes, resilience in the face of climate shocks and many other benefits.
Ashden; Climate Solutions in Africa said they have a team that deals with three snapshots of innovation.
Minigrids to motorbikes
The first tackles the problem of unreliable energy grids, which affect one-third of the global population.
Many communities, living on the grid in urban areas still suffer poor or limited service and can face long stretches without power or are forced to turn to pollute expensive diesel generators.
Clean energy mini-grids, more commonly found bringing power to off-grid rural communities, offer a reliable and affordable supplement to existing grid provision.
One example can be found in Wuse Market, Abuja, Nigeria. Stallholders and shoppers there are enjoying the benefits of reliable lighting and cold storage which means fresher food, more choice, and longer opening hours.
This initiative and others like it including Enaro Energy’s mini-grid or undergird project in Lagos, Nigeria could drive decarbonisation and energy security for marginalised urban people, while boosting urban air quality.
Another breakthrough is on-street battery swap stations, keeping electric motorbike taxis on the road.
These vehicles are the greener alternative to the boda-boda motorbikes that offer cheap mass transit to millions in African cities.
Long charge times are a problem for operators keen to go electric but the swap stations, from innovators such as Kenya’s Stima Boda, make ‘refuelling’ even faster than visiting the petrol pump.
As more battery swap stations arrive on a city’s grid, they could even help those running it reduce load shedding and manage frequency.
So the innovation would support a more reliable electricity supply across the entire system, as well as lower exhaust pipe emissions.
A final area of innovation is financing solutions, which make clean energy more affordable for households and businesses.
The start-up is bringing customers and finance together, so people can get solar homes and small commercial systems at much better rates and finance providers have more visibility on technical risk.
By Dr Stephen Hall, Head of Awards, Ashden