Distributed power generation - generation unconnected to a conventional power grid - is gaining more and more attention, as it facilitates the supply of power to regions that normally lack electricity, while also utilizing renewable energy sources.
By 2014, already 84.7% of Africa's population owned mobile phones. In addition to voice calls, mobile internet usage and mobile payment platforms have also grown in popularity. In recent years, many new startups offering mobile technology-based services have launched in Africa, but growth has often been hindered by one major issue: a lack of electricity.
Owning a mobile phone without having access to electricity may sound challenging to most people, but this is the situation for approximately 600 million people across the African continent, most of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite having a greater land mass than China, India, and the US combined, this region has a relatively low population density, which is why it lacks the large-scale, concentrated power grids commonly found in big cities. It is not uncommon for residents in this region to walk for miles just to reach the nearest place to charge their phones.
One possible solution is the use of off-grid power systems consisting of compact solar panels and battery storage. Services that enable people to pay upfront for set amounts of power usage and to rent packages of electronic devices such as LED lights, mobile phone chargers, TVs and radios, have been growing rapidly throughout the African continent.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common source of household lighting is the kerosene lamp. By replacing these with off-grid power systems that run on clean, solar energy, the positive benefits for both people and the environment are immeasurable. Even for the smallest of LED bulbs, we can count on their light to shine far into the future.
Powering African Households
Through NEoT Offgrid Africa (NOA), a joint-venture company established with Electricité de France (EDF), Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) is developing a financing tool to help provide electricity (from solar panels and battery storage) and electronic devices (lights, radios, TVs, etc.) to households in off-grid areas in Côte d'Ivoire and other parts of Africa. By offering affordable, clean energy, MC aims to improve quality of life and reduce impact on the natural environment.
This article appeared in Asahi Shimbun's “GLOBE” feature of August 4, 2019