Because of long distances, it is often found too expensive to electrify isolated areas by grid. In the case of isolated areas close to neighbouring countries, however, it can in some cases be feasible to connect from the neighbouring country where the electricity grid might be closer. To overcome the high expenses and challenges of electrifying isolated areas, three projects have implemented cross-border electrification-projects in the northern, western and southern parts of Togo from Ghana and Benin respectively. The regional organisation, West African Power Pool, has led all three projects in collaboration with the national utility companies.
Impact is visible in the larger villages electrified by the project. These have experienced a significant increase in economic activities with more craftsmen and shops among the positive socio-economic effects of the cooperation across borders. The population in all villages achieving electrification have experienced improvement in living conditions and now enjoys a social life in the evening, lower risk of snake attacks because of streetlight and access to cold soft drinks and water. Furthermore, health centres report significant improvement in treatment, especially at night. Schools also report a higher student success rate through the ability to study in the evening either in classrooms, under illuminated posts or at home.
The three projects have to a large degree improved the quality life in the selected locations. Still, cross-border electrification lines have disadvantages: The main difference between localities served by the Togolese network and localities served by either the Ghanaian or Beninese network, is the duration of outages with the latter experiencing cuts for several days. Causes are difficult to place but can either be due to geography of border areas, where it can be more cumbersome to repair the grid, or because the utility companies in Ghana and Benin are less in a hurry to restore grid lines that supply Togolese clients than they are when it is their own clients that are without electricity. Whatever the reason is, the consequences of long outages are substantial for shops and craftsmen who can go bankrupt as a result of an unexpected electricity break for several days.
The good quality of works and the anticipation of future demand in the dimensioning of lines and transformers have guaranteed a stable and secure service for several years, and the three projects have proved that cross-border electrification can be a feasible alternative to off-grid electrification in isolated areas.
The Project, Access to modern and sustainable energy services, in Mali has successfully distributed 4000 improved stoves and 5000 solar powered lamps in cooperation with local women’s groups in 60 villages. The women’s groups have been organized in 4 umbrella organizations that manages their own funds. Currently, the associations have much more working capital than the initial sum they started with, and are continuously ordering new equipment based on the demand of women in the local villages.
The rural areas in Mali often have to deal with very inefficient energy solutions, such as a pot on three stones for cooking, and low quality battery-torches or kerosene lamps for lighting. Although these areas have a great potential for introducing more efficient solutions that can benefit women in terms of time and resources, the lack of economic resources and effective distribution systems remain a significant barrier.
The project has identified villages that already had functioning women’s groups, which were organized into associations, and whose members have received training in literacy, counting and management. The associations were provided with an initial sum to start a working capital and have since been responsible for ordering and distributing improved stoves and solar lamps from suppliers – to great effect, given that the current working capital is much higher than the initial sum.
“The lamps give freedom; you can do many things with them and the children have the lighting to study” says a member of the Kotongontala association in the Bougouni Cercle.
The various village groups distribute the equipment and collect reimbursement from its members, which includes the cost of the equipment as well as an interest for the associations. AMADER, Agency of the Malian government, has been involved in the project to ensure that the stoves follows the national standards and to strengthen the replication of the approach to other poor rural areas in Mali.
The Muhura power line project has ensured that social services in the cities of Muhura and Bugurura, such as hospitals, schools, and high schools, as well as households, traders, and various workshops have been connected to a stable supply of electricity. Thus, the Muhura power line project has had a profound social and economic impact.
Formerly, various social services have depended on diesel generators for their supply of power. But the generators have proved too costly in maintenance and diesel expenses. A few households and traders have had small and unreliable solar panels installed and for more electricity demanding tasks, such as welding, people have travelled to the capital, Kigali to use the workshops there, but after the project, there are now several workshops in the area thanks to the power supply.
The two cities are experiencing a boom in economic activities that, according to the head of the Umudugu in Muhura, are clearly visible, “The city is much improved. Now, we can do the same things here as in Kigali. We now have local workshops – mills, welding – a hairdresser’s salon, cold drinks.”
In order to connect the two cities with a stable and strong supply of electricity, the project build a power line that runs 15 kilometres from the Rwandan national power line to Muhura, the district capital of Gatsibo. A distribution network has been installed to sustain the various social services, traders and households in the two cities. Through this project the social services have been connected to the distribution network, whereas connecting households, traders and other private customers is an ongoing process that is handled by the Rwandan electricity company, EUCL.
The CASE project has successfully helped in countering deforestation in Rwanda, by introducing more efficient stoves as well as efficient techniques for producing charcoal, affecting approximately 145,000 people.
Deforestation is a huge environmental issue in all East-African countries. Having lost more than 25% of its forests over the past 40 years, Rwanda is no exception. 96 % of Rwandans still depend on wood for domestic energy – the alternatives being either unreliable or unaffordable – and the demand for land and the degradation of natural resources will only increase. This emphasizes the importance of countering deforestation and finding sustainable solutions to the energy needs of the population.
The main driver behind the deforestation is the use of firewood and especially charcoal for cooking in urban areas. The charcoal is often produced in rural areas far from where it is sold. The CASE project has, first of all, attempted to reduce the demand for firewood and charcoal, by introducing more efficient stoves. Second, to increase the income of the beneficiaries, the project has helped them to master techniques for producing charcoal.
The project has helped local authorities to assume their vital role and, with previous experience with Village savings and Loan-groups (VSLs), the project lead, Care Rwanda, used these as a platform for selecting project beneficiaries. A research facility has been responsible for selecting stove models as well as training local stove producers, and an NGO, which specialized in charcoal production, has handled that component.
This setup has produced strong results and the technical solutions, adapted to the local context, have created a lasting impact affecting approximately 145,000 people. Today, 7 years later, the stoves introduced in the project are still working, and are used and appreciated. The local charcoal-producers are almost exclusively applying the techniques learnt in the project and local authorities are effectively protecting forest resources in cooperation with the charcoal-producers.
Three hundred primary and secondary schools in Rwanda have been connected to electricity thanks to the IREA-RPPP-project and the support provided by the ACP-EU Energy Facility. Rwanda has set an ambitious target of one laptop pr. child in its educational system. For many rural schools this poses a challenge: How to power laptops, when your school is not connected to electricity? The solution offered by the project is solar energy and today more than two hundred thousand children go to schools that has electricity.
The project “Increased Renewable Energy Access in Rwanda through Public Private Partnerships” (IREA-RPPP) was initially designed to boost energy access through both solar- and hydropower. In the first year, the project components were split: the major hydropower projects became part of a Belgian supported hydropower-programme, and the purely EU-funded component focused mainly on off-grid solar energy. In this way, synergies were optimised between the development partners and the Rwandan government.
IREA-RPPP employed a very thorough selection process requiring that the schools targeted for support match several criteria: most importantly, they should be off-grid without the likelihood for grid connection for several years to come, so distance to the existing grid was important. Also, a certain number of students was required to maximise impact, and a necessary quality of buildings was needed to minimise theft of cables, outlets and lightbulbs. It was also important that school staff showed interest in and motivation to maintain the systems.
The technical design was adapted to the context: the condition of rural school buildings can be varied, they can be located at different orientations to the sun, and with a staff that has different levels of capacity and interest in technical maintenance. Systems were therefore placed within a fenced perimeter at the school premises with the panels mounted on a rack, inclined to their optimal position towards the sun, and with inverters, regulators and batteries placed in a small ventilated building below them.
This design resolves issues of finding suitable location for the panels and other equipment. The choice of lithium-ion batteries, the high energy capacity of the systems and the overall high quality of equipment and installations has meant that very few maintenance issues had risen even after several years of use. The large bulk of the systems will have a long lifetime before batteries or inverters needs to be replaced.
As a result of the project, the 300 schools use laptops in class and teachers have better work condition due to electricity access in the school. Some schools have even started to exploit systems in new ways using it to power computers and overhead projectors, loud speakers for communal singing, supply nearby buildings with electricity and offer services like hair cutting for children.
The Zanzan region is located in north-eastern Cote d’Ivoire, which is a zone with sporadic electricity network coverage in comparison with other regions of the country. Without electricity, there is no public lighting, no freezers, no radios or televisions. The local inhabitants have made use of kerosene lamps and battery-operated torches for lighting the home, at an excessive cost for such a poor population.
Thanks to the support of the European Union, the NGO Delegation Fondation Akwaba and their Spanish technical partner Azimut 360 has installed photovoltaic mini-grids in 7 isolated villages in the region of Zanzan. This project, is an innovative first step in the field of solar mini-grids in Cote d’Ivoire.
Several technical solutions were implemented to guarantee that electricity demands could be met through the mini-grids: 1) distribution losses were minimised and the system design ensured adequate capacity for generation and storage; 2) the mini-grid installations are equipped with a diesel generator that automatically kicks in when the batteries reach a defined minimum, thereby reducing the energy storage requirements to provide a 24-hour service; 3) the application of a business model that makes use of smart meters that automatically interrupt the electricity supply when clients consume more than their pre-defined daily limits.
Based on this technical design and with the financial support of the EU and other donors, all 7 villages have access to electricity 24/7, providing the first reliable solar electricity supply in the country. The quality of life of inhabitants have been improved in several respects: socially, particularly in the evening due to public lighting; economically as a result of business development activities, the return of the youth to the village etc.
The change in living conditions after the implementation of the mini-grids was fundamental, as expressed by Adengra Moîs Kouadio, from Kapé village:
‘Life before electricity is not comparable with life today. We used to be blind, now we can see’.
The Msamala Sustainable Energy project was implemented in the Balaka district in Malawi, a rural and poor area. In this area, deforestation, inadequate access to energy at the household level, and unsustainable use of charcoal and firewood pose a great challenge. Therefore, the project included a number of components to reduce the demand for fire wood, increase the sustainable supply of wood, and retrain those in the value chain that were earning a living from charcoal production. The project also incorporated the production and sale of improved cook stoves, established literacy and village savings circles, and installed solar panels in 20 schools where forestry clubs were also set up.
The objective of the project was to improve sustainable access to and use of energy. A holistic approach was adopted by the project and it proved to be a success. The approach was innovative in terms of integrating environmental management, energy, education, and income-generation.
By the end of the project, there was a 25% increase in forest cover in the area and 13 participatory forestry management plans had been developed. To tackle deforestation, the Village Natural Resources Management Committees were trained to map the forest, manage its resources and introduce and enforce by-laws to prevent illegal felling. Furthermore, 24,359 stoves were sold to households and 8 to institutions in the area. Over 1,850 adults passed national literacy tests as a result of the project.
In December 2016, The Energy Facility monitoring team visited the project site in Malawi. The most significant result is that the various activities are being continued by the communities in Balaka 4 years after the project implementation officially ended. With the help of carbon credits, the communities have been able to generate additional income from the production of stoves to develop their local infrastructure.
For more information on the Energy Facility projects, please visit the ACP-EU Energy Facility Database.
The objective of the “Micresol” project was to reduce poverty among rural populations in two regions of Burkina Faso through sustainable and affordable access to electricity services. The project consisted of two separate parts: part 1 and part 2.
– Part 1 included the dissemination of 1.000 solar kits – Solar Home Systems – in the Central and Eastern region of Burkina Faso by means of micro-financing;
– Part 2 included the development of a rural electrification strategy for renewable energy in the Northern region of Burkina Faso.
Especially part 1 proved to be successful in promoting renewable energy amongst the rural communities. The populations in rural areas uses a lot of energy, but they rarely have the means to invest in cost- and energy efficient solutions like a good quality solar home system. Many people don’t have much trust in these kinds of products, because they have negative past experiences with poor quality solar kits. However, drawing from the experiences of a previous pilot project, the Micresol project partners found a successful model consisting of:
– good quality subsidized solar kits;
– a flexible and adaptable business model;
– favorable payment terms through a local financing institution;
– free repair and replacement services by a local business in the installment period.
This model was not successful in the beginning of the project implementation period. The local communities had to gradually adjust and gain confidence in the solar kits through word of mouth. But when the first clients were happy, more and more people joined the scheme, and today the demand for, and the interest in, this green and energy efficient solution is fast increasing.
For more information on the Energy Facility projects, please visit the ACP-EU Energy Facility Database.
With the aim of addressing economic growth, social improvement and poverty reduction, the Mwenga project “Mwenga 3 MW Hydro Power Plant” was directed at improving the access to sustainable and reliable energy in fourteen villages in the rural areas of Tanzania. Specifically, the project was to build and operate a 4MW hydro-power ‘run of river’ facility, which would provide electricity to the village, the local tea industry and the national grid.
The construction of the hydro power plant and the distribution network were delayed by nearly two years due to much longer approval processing time than anticipated. However, the project implementation continued for parts of the projects which either had obtained approval or where no approvals were needed, for example preparation of access roads and outline of the power lines and stocking building materials. This pro-active measure ensured that the construction was ready to commence as soon as approvals/permits were obtained.
In March 2016, the ACP-EU Energy Facility Monitoring team conducted a site visit to monitor the impact of the project and provide recommendations for future use. The team learned that the Hydro Power Plant had been constructed with a technical design that according to nearly three years of operation is considered to be in line with expectations and calculations. The number of connections started out by being lower than expected, but a steadily increasing number of applications from new customers indicate the popularity and the affordability of connections.
The project has had a special focus on providing all schools with electricity and this apparently helps retain the high qualified and best teachers, and hence it is expected that the educational level and students’ performance over years will improve. The active involvement and participation at the local level through the constitution of village “electricity committees” are likely to have ensured a sense of local ownership to the project. Through these committees the collection of information related to the power line routing and providing information through project awareness dissemination has effectively supported the project management.
The 2nd phase of the project is currently being implemented. The project entitled “Mwenga Hydro Rural Network Extension into the Kihansi Basin” aims to expand the existing Mwenga Rural Network into the neighbouring Kihansi Basin, in order to supply 17 villages with clean renewable energy. By building and operating additional 204 km of new power-lines, it is expected that this extension exercise will result in approximately 3000 + new rural connections within the first 20 months of commercial operation.
The Mwenga actions serve as good demonstration projects for private sector involvement in the energy sector. The Government of Tanzania is promoting further involvement of private investment in this sector and the Mwenga case can serve well in this context.
An innovative project in Benin to help rural citizens with laborious agricultural tasks was successfully implemented due to an effective way of selecting capable operators as well as the use of locally produced equipment. ”SETUP: Services Energétiques et Techniques à Usage Productif au Bénin” aimed to solve a practical problem. The processing of agricultural products has traditionally been performed with hard physical labor, mostly performed by women. One example is the task of molding corn for daily meals which requires much effort from women in rural areas of Benin. This project installed 26 multifunctional platforms. Each platform consists of a building with a large room where an engine powers agro-processing equipment, such as a corn mill and an oil press. Neighboring farmers can bring their produce, pay a fee for using the machines, and efficiently let the machine do the work previously performed with physical labor. To find the right people to operate the platforms, the project organized a grand competition in cooperation with the local municipalities in order to select the best associations and private entrepreneurs. In addition, much equipment was produced by local artisans. This has made it much easier for local technicians to handle repairs afterwards. Five years after the platforms were installed, most are still in use. The clever setup, with the availability of local technicians to handle repairs and qualified operators, has resulted in a sustainable project where operators have seen new opportunities and expanded their businesses, farmers have gained vital access to expensive machinery, and the burden of some physical labor has been lifted off the shoulders of rural women.