Off the grid in Africa: Why distributed power is becoming a key source of electricity
About 1.2 billion people live without access to an electrical grid. The overwhelming majority of them -- about 95 percent – live in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2016 released earlier this year by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In certain countries in Africa, less than 20 percent of the population has grid access.
The report, which took an in-depth look at several aspects of the off-grid market, from technology trends to financing trends, projects that by 2020, about one third of all the world’s off-grid households will use off-grid solar.
In addition to the large off-grid population in Africa, the report notes that there are other factors that make off-grid power the most practical way to deliver electricity in many parts of the continent, the report notes.
- Africa’s off-grid population is growing. Despite investments to extend electrical grids to reach more people, the number of people in Africa living off the grid has grown by 114 million since 2000, and that number is growing by several million each year, the report notes. While many households pay cash for their off-grid solar systems, pay-as-you-go solar systems have also contributed to affordability. Off-grid solar costs are also competitive with kerosene lanterns, battery-powered torches, and even candles.
- Off-grid power is affordable to many low-income households. While most people living off the grid are poor, the report estimates that tens of millions of households in Africa have an annual income that – while modest – is high enough for them to afford simple solar lanterns as well as some larger solar-powered appliances.
- Technology and quality is improving. As the off-grid solar market have grown multiple quality assurance and verification programs have set a baseline level of quality and durability for products being sold.