Relative to global standards, Somalia’s electricity prices are very expensive.
Somalia, an East African country with a population of nearly 10 million, has some of the most expensive electricity in the world. According to an article by Al Jazeera, a kilowatt of electricity in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, can cost up to $1 per hour, which is five times more expensive than in Kenya, and 10 times more expensive than in the U.S.

In 1991, Somalia’s energy sector was destroyed.

Following the collapse of the central government, residents were forced to depend on diesel generators for individual households in the early 1990s. Many were left with absolutely no electricity.

Now, the seven electricity companies that exist are all privately owned. Most of them don’t have licenses and operate without paying taxes. “[The private companies] give you electricity when they want and stop it when they want,” said an ice-making factory owner, Abshir Maalin Abdi, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The individual companies also blatantly deny the customers’ accusations that they are being overcharged. But, the control of the cost is out of the hands of the poor, while the benefits are mostly in the hands of warlords and militias.

A high rate of unemployment

Electricity is a luxury because most of the country’s working population is jobless. According to the U.N., more than half of the country’s population (those between the ages of 15 and 64), is unemployed; the unemployment rate for youth is 67 percent.

In addition, 40 percent of Somalia’s population also lives below the poverty line. Many simply cannot afford electricity, and it is hard for businesses to make money and develop without affordable electricity prices.

What are the solutions?

The government of Somalia has developed a ten-year energy plan to improve the electricity sector, which will cost a total of US$ 803 million. It will involve the construction of new power plants and transmission lines that will boost electricity access in towns and homes, costing an average of US$ 0.50 per unit, according to a report by Geeska Afrika.

Some of the money will go towards funding training programs and will also provide alternative cooking solutions from charcoal use. The ultimate goal is to increase Somalia’s power capacity, and diversity the energy alternatives including solar and wind energy. This has the potential to lead to significant economic growth.

The government must also prioritize and improve the basic economic structure and poor social services, which fuel high unemployment rates of the younger generation.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abdihakim Egeh Guled, deputy minister of energy and water resources, describes implementing a law to alleviate this problem. “The only thing we can do… is to bring about a legislation that will monitor these companies that provide electricity,” he said. Currently, the country has no laws regulating the electricity industry. Encouraging a drop in electricity prices could radically improve the lives of many.

Michelle Simon

Photo: Flickr


In Malawi, only nine percent of the population is connected to the electricity grid. In rural areas, this number drops to one percent. In a country with a population of 16.7 million, growing at three percent a year; this is not sustainable.

The country’s economic and social development will slow drastically, if the energy crisis in Malawi persists.

According to a report by the BBC, the Malawian government is attempting to connect more people to the grid by opening the energy market to independent producers. Although this will make a significant difference, it comes at a price.

Malawi’s Energy Minister, Bright Msaka, said that Malawi could produce an extra 200 Mega Watts of solar energy by 2019, adding to the current capacity of 300 Mega Watts.

In the meantime, SolarAid is providing a cheaper and cleaner solution to the energy crisis in Malawi through its solar-powered lamps which can also charge mobile phones.

According to the charity’s website, many households in countries across Africa use homemade kerosene lamps. These are dangerous, emitting toxic black smoke; they are a weak light source and on average use up a significant portion of a family’s household, budget.

“A solar lamp is a compact, portable device that uses a photovoltaic panel to produce up to 10 watts of power,” according to a statement on SolarAid’s website. They typically take eight hours to charge, but can emit light for several hours.

The charity has introduced a pay-as-you-go ownership system at a cost of $12. In order to make the lamps more accessible, the organization offers a payment plan over the course of 3 or 4 months.

SolarAid’s social enterprise, SunnyMoney, is the largest distributor of solar lights in Africa. SunnyMoney has worked with Powered World Initiative USA to provide more students with solar lights that can make studying at home much easier.

“The amount of light that you get is linked to the amount of money you pay,” said Brave Mhonie, the national sales co-ordinator for SolarAid, in an interview with the BBC. While this is not a sustainable long-term solution, it is a strategy that can provide many with electricity, when they otherwise would be unable to access it.

The lamps help to address the energy crisis in Malawi, by providing a much safer alternative to kerosene, candles, or battery-powered torches. So far, SolarAid has sold 1,844,592 solar lamps and counting.

Michelle Simon

Photo:  Flickr

KenGen Africa Energy Wind FarmKenGen is Kenya’s leading electric power generation company, producing about 80 percent of electricity consumed in the country. The company utilizes various sources to generate electricity, including hydro, wind, thermal and geothermal energy.

Last August, KenGen won two awards at the prestigious East African Power Industry Awards gala in Nairobi when the company was voted best in East Africa in the category of Excellence in Power Generation and was given the Outstanding Clean Power Project Award. Both awards are in recognition of the 280MW Olkaria Geothermal Expansion Project, according to the Aug. 28, 2015 KenGen press release.

“The project has helped the country save billions each month by displacing an equivalent amount of thermal electricity generation that use costly fossil fuels in favor of the much cheaper electricity from geothermal,” the press release states.

The judges who gave the award to KenGen said the geothermal power project was one of the largest in the world, with Kenya among the top 10 world leaders in geothermal energy. KenGen has contributed significantly to bringing down the cost of power in Kenya by directly offsetting thermal-based generation.

Geothermal energy comes from heat at the core of the earth. According to Clean Energy Ideas, “The earth’s core temperature is believed to be anywhere between 6000°C and 6500°C based on new research that came to light in 2013.” Previously, scientists believed the earth’s core to be somewhere around 5000°C.

“This intense heat is absorbed by the different layers of the earth, helping to heat our planet,” the website says. Geothermal power then refers to the electricity that can be generated from geothermal energy.

According to Conserve Energy Future, a website focused on climate change and alternative energy sources, geothermal power has advantages over other forms of energy. There can be significant cost savings, a reduced reliance on fossil fuels, no pollution and the potential for job creation.

In 2015, Kenya was rated by Forbes magazine as the third fastest growing economy in the developing world. With that, the demand for energy grew by about 5.5 percent in the last year and is predicted to continue growing.

The Africa Report claims that Kenya alone plans to increase its power generating capacity from about 2,500 MW to about 6,700 MW by 2017.

KenGen says that geothermal has surpassed hydro as the main source of electricity since December 2014, removing the need for rationing electricity in times of drought. KenGen’s push toward geothermal power is one important step toward solving Africa’s energy challenges.

Megan Hadley

Sources: The African Report, KenGen 1, KenGen 2, Conserve Energy Future, Clean Energy Ideas
Photo: Liberation

Electrify Africa
President Obama has signed into law the Electrify Africa Act of 2015, which will bring electricity to millions in Africa.

About two-thirds of people in Africa do not have access to reliable power, according to BBC News. The Electrify Africa Act will establish a strategy to help sub-Saharan countries implement power solutions to promote economic growth and reduce poverty.

For people without electricity, simple tasks such as cooking or reading are complicated without a light source at night. Many people in Africa are also unable to use modern technologies, like cell phones or computers, or do basic tasks such as refrigerating food and medicine.

The lack of electricity causes some families in Africa to use fossil fuels or charcoal, which has a negative effect on the environment and health.

According to BBC News, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce stated that this initiative will “improve the lives of millions in sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce reliance on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources that produce fumes that kill more than HIV/Aids and malaria combined.”

Electrify Africa
Power Africa was launched by President Obama in 2013. It took nearly two years for it to pass through the Senate and House of Representatives and become the Electrify Africa Act of 2015.

The U.S. initially invested $7 billion in the project but that number has since risen to nearly $43 billion. According to Voice of America, the high cost of energy in sub-Saharan Africa makes producing exports impossible, so it would be beneficial to the U.S. to help Africa become a major trading partner.

In addition to the U.S. government, African governments and private companies are involved in the development of the Power Africa initiative. The Electrify Africa Act provides a framework for companies to invest in African energy solutions.

The long-term goal is to double the amount of electricity available to people in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing electricity to 50 million people in the region by 2020.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: BBC, Christian Science Monitor, Voice of America

Electricity in Bangladesh
Only 50 percent of the population in Bangladesh has access to electricity — and those with access often experience power outages. In order to improve current living conditions, the government has committed to ensuring access to affordable and reliable electricity to all citizens by 2021.

Current Energy Sources are Being Depleted

The Financial Times recently reported that domestically produced natural gas currently provides 80 percent of Bangladesh’s electricity. As a result, gas fields are fast being depleted and government regulations, including a ban on exports, have discouraged further exploration. The remaining electricity supply is generated by expensive diesel and furnace oil plants.

The Government of Bangladesh Secures Financing Deal

In order to improve current conditions, the government of Bangladesh received a $177 million financing agreement from the International Development Association (IDA) at the end of last year.

The funding has been earmarked for the completion of a 355 megawatt combined cycle power plant currently undergoing construction at Siddhirganj, near Dhaka.

The project will help increase clean, reliable and low-cost electricity supply in Bangladesh. When completed, the power plant will account for 6 percent of the total electricity delivered to the national grid, according to the World Bank.

This is not the first time the government received funding toward the country’s electricity needs.

In 2008, the World Bank provided $350 million to construct a 300-megawatt gas turbine power plant in Siddhirganj. In the face of increasing power demand and gas shortages, the government decided to convert the peaking power plant to an energy-efficient 335 megawatt combined cycle power plant. The combined cycle technology will allow the plant to produce higher energy with lower gas consumption. This cleaner technology will show a reduction in carbon emissions.

The new financing will fill the financing gap for constructing the power plant.

“This additional financing will add much-needed new power generation capacity for Bangladesh. This financing will contribute to the World Bank’s current support to the energy sector, raising it to over $1.5 billion,” said Iffath Sharif, Acting World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh.

In addition to financing the construction of the power plant, the project will also help strengthen the institutional capacity of the three implementing agencies: Gas Transmission Company Limited (GTCL), Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh (EGCB), and Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB).

The plant is predicted to start commercial operation in 2016.

Kara Buckley

Sources: Energy Live News, FT, IISD, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy to Light Up Rwanda
East Africa’s first solar power plant in Rwanda has created 350 local jobs and powers more than 15,000 homes. This use of renewable energy means that Rwanda is on track to achieve its goal of providing half of its population with electricity by 2017.

The $23.7 million project took only a year to complete. The Rwandan government partnered with Gigawatt Global, Norfund and Scatec Solar; all of whom were aided by the president’s Power Africa initiative.

The 17-hectare solar plant is compromised of 28,360 solar panels which are arranged to mimic the shape of the African continent. The panels are computer controlled and tilt to track the sun throughout the day which improves its efficiency by 20 percent, compared to stationary solar panels.

“The speed with which this project was completed is a tribute to the strength of the Rwandan government’s institutions and their laser-focus on increasing Rwanda’s generation capacity as well as to the nimbleness of our team and partners which spanned eight countries,” Chaim Motzen, managing director and co-founder of Gigawatt Global, said.

The plant is 60 kilometers east of the capital Kigali, on land owned by the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV). The village is home to children who were orphaned before and after Rwanda’s genocide in 1994. The lease provided the village with significant income which was invested in schooling and extracurricular activities.

Gigawatt Global will also be implementing solar energy technology training to students at the Liquidnet High School in ASYV.

Rwanda relies on diesel fuel for electrical power which is expensive and highly polluting. It cripples the country’s economic growth and leaves more than 15 percent of the population without electricity.

The installation of the solar power plant has provided a better renewable energy source that has also increased Rwanda’s electrical capacity by 6 percent. Consequently, economic output, social welfare, employment conditions and standards of living have improved.

“We have plenty of sun. Some living in remote areas where there is no energy. Solar will be the way forward for African countries,” Twaha Twagirimana, the plant supervisor, said.

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: The Guardian, Cleantechnica, Gigawatt Global
Photo: Flickr

In rural Myanmar today, only 16 percent of households have electricity. The Myanmar government, in partnership with the World Bank, intends to drastically increase the number of connections to reach universal connectivity for rural residents by 2030 through the National Electrification Plan.

The Myanmar government has found that lack of access to electricity is more than a basic hindrance to the people of Myanmar. As it turns out, lack of access plays a major role in stunting community development and perpetuating the poverty cycle.

Students, in particular, suffer from the lack of universal connectivity, having to rely on expensive battery powered lights or candles. In a nation where the sun sets each evening before 7 p.m. year-round, that leaves a lot of rural school children in the dark.

Creating sustainable local businesses has also proven to be a challenge. Without electricity, markets are unable to operate at night, losing valuable employment opportunities for community members while causing a loss of community potential for outside investment.

Rural clinics also suffer due to the shortage of quality lighting but, more importantly, because of refrigeration issues. A wide variety of injectable medication requires constant refrigeration, such as lifesaving drug insulin.

The National Electrification Plan will be able to put an end to these problems. Designed with three checkpoints, the program intends to reach 50 percent access by 2020, 75 percent by 2025 and universal access by 2030, according to World Bank.

Due to some of the challenging geographic locations that require a connection, the program is incorporating solar power and mini-grid connections besides just increasing the size of the of the national grid.

As of Sept. 16, 2015, the Myanmar government was approved for a $400 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to move forward with the program. The entire project is estimated to require $6 billion of investments to connect all 7 million households.

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $700 million and connect nearly 2 million homes and will be finished over the course of the next five years.

As for community welfare, 23,000 new connections have been designated for clinics, schools and religious buildings, and more than 150,000 public lights are planned to illuminate public spaces.

The Myanmar government hopes that the National Electrification Plan will help pave the way to increased economic and social prosperity throughout the nations, giving the people of Myanmar a brighter, more successful and sustainable future.

Claire Colby

Sources: Timebie, World Bank, World Factbook
Photo: Pixabay

Los MinoImagine returning home from work, and perhaps it is nighttime. You have spent the daylight hours at your job and need to tend to the house or simply want to relax, sit down and bathe in the soft glow emitted by your lamp-lit rooms. You go to flick the switch but find yourself immersed in inky blackness.

The lights are not coming back on in the community of Los Mina and others nearby in the foreseeable future. It’s not a thunderstorm or a temporary outage. In fact, this is what many Dominicans across the country expect, living with unreliable electricity where blackouts are common and unfortunately part of everyday life.

According to an article by the World Bank, the Dominican Republic is unlike the rest of Latin America, a region that has one of the lowest rates of power outages. In fact, it is the Dominican Republic that holds second place for the most blackouts per month in 2010 with at 18 power outages, trailing The Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen

These pervasive electrical outages are more than just a temporary inconvenience; they greatly diminish the chance for families, businesses and whole communities to move forward with the rest of the world.

The World Bank explains, “Years of neglect have left the Dominican electricity riddled with inefficiencies. Over two-fifths of all the electricity purchased from generating companies is lost before it reaches the consumer, either due to bad network conditions or the high number of illegal connections between the energy sources and the end users. The result: ongoing, system-wide blackouts which significantly impact the country’s competitiveness.”

Recognizing this problem, the government has rehabilitated 220 miles of power lines, with the ambitious goal of providing a 24/7 electricity supply to about 100,000 Dominicans. However, this fix in such a broken system could not have been possible without the investment of $42 million provided by the World Bank.

Today, the challenge isn’t in providing reliable electricity, but in reestablishing trust again among communities who have grown bitter in their resentment over the years.

With newfound brightly lit houses and street lamps filling the cities for the first time, another favorable outcome has resulted: a decrease in crime. Ultimately, lighting streets, which have previously been lost in complete darkness, have lessened the possibility for crime to occur while simultaneously increasing public safety.

Although the Dominican electrical system presently runs a deficit that has increased in the past four years, plans are underway to reverse this trend and provide all Dominicans with 24/7 electricity in the next 15 years. The investment in reliable electricity today will contribute to a sunnier tomorrow.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: World Bank, Global Voices Online
Photo: Flickr

Micro_Hydro_powerIn remote regions of Nepal, the earth’s natural wonders can be felt running through the currents of rivers, lakes and glacial melt–all of which have been deemed essential for harnessing renewable energy provided through micro hydro plants.

How exactly is energy gleaned from a micro hydro plant? Practical Action, a company which uses technology to challenge poverty in developing countries, describes it as, “the small-scale harnessing of energy from falling water, such as steep mountain rivers.”

The company goes on to explain that “Using this renewable, indigenous, non-polluting resource, micro-hydro plants can generate power for homes, hospitals, schools and workshops.”

Ultimately, it is by using power from these water sources, that micro-hydros are able to generate energy, therefore producing electricity, and ultimately giving many Nepalese access to “reliable and clean energy through community managed micro-hydro plants,” states an article by the World Bank.

In fact, it is through the Nepal Micro Hydro Promotion project, that the Nepal Government (with help from the World Bank) has already built 400 micro run-of-the-river hydropower plants between 2007-2014.

The power that is harnessed by each micro hydro plant is quite astounding. Even the smallest micro hydro plant at 7 watts is able to provide electricity for 100 households, while the largest plant can serve around 940 households.

Additional revenue is created through a micro hydro project which issues carbon credits by displacing diesel fuel with renewable energy. Afterwards, any credits received can be sold and profits will help fund operations and maintenance of the existing hydros.

The first ever carbon credits alone reduced 66,345 tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking 14,000 vehicles off the road for a year, states a World Bank infographic.

With the establishment of micro hydros, 625,000 more people now have access to electricity and the potential for this renewable energy stands tall: with reliable electricity children can finish their homework into the evening, businesses and schools can remain open later and even more importantly, paths can be illuminated ensuring a safer means of traveling once night falls.

Micro hydro power plants are not just helping people—they are providing a green environment for future generations.

“Another benefit is improved health and household finances. People are spending less money on kerosene, diesel and batteries – and breathe in less smoke from oil lamps and diesel generators. And the environment benefits from reduced chemical pollution from dry cell batteries,” states the World Bank.

Ultimately, micro hydros encompass four community benefits: financial security, the stimulation of jobs, the creation of a safe environment through lighting and finally, the establishment of a healthy environment by choosing renewable energy over non-renewable sources.

Even with as many as 130 plants out of commission due to the recent earthquakes Nepal has experienced in April and May, the government recognizes their irreplaceable value and plans to rebuild all of the micro-hydros which have been damaged—74 are already now fully or partially operating.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: Practical Action, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

D-Light Solar Energy
An estimated 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity globally. In the 21st century, access to electricity is almost as important as food and water; it is undoubtedly a lifeline for the economic and financial health of any nation.

Inaccessibility to electricity hinders economic growth, as well as impacts the standard of life in regions without electricity, crippling the human capital as well.

The link between access to electricity and poverty has long been established. Modern technology is, more often than not, dependent on electricity.

From successful farming and production of sufficient food to education resources and the creation of industry, electricity is the prerequisite for numerous facets of life. The United Nation’s Millennium Goals also identify the importance of electricity in eradicating global poverty.

Despite the significance of electricity in today’s world, many developing countries struggle to find solutions to the problem of accessibility of electricity. To address the problems of electricity shortage, we have to ask what the reason for this shortage is.

The primary cause of the unavailability of electricity in most regions is the lack of technology to produce electricity or the lack of resources used for its production, such as coal, gas and water dams.

Solar energy is currently being touted as the cure-all to the energy woes of the world. Solar energy is a renewable source of energy and is also ecologically sustainable.

Although it is by no means the most energy-efficient in terms of the ratio of available energy to harvested energy, solar power is abundant in developing countries and can be harnessed for generating electricity.

Recently, the development and provision of solar-powered devices to low-income countries have gained momentum. Programs like Solar Electric Light Fund and Solar Sisters work to empower the populations living in extreme poverty through the provision of electricity and related resources.

d.light is also one such initiative. Its goal is to provide electricity to people in developing countries. According to its estimates based on its customers’ feedback, d.light has helped more than 50 million people worldwide with its program.

d.light was initially developed as the brainchild of Sam Goldman, who saw the dangers of kerosene usage for lamps in East Africa. He partnered with Ned Tozun to find d.light in 2006, which operates principally in East Africa and India.

d.light manufactures solar lamps and solar chargers, which are compact, mobile, safe and incur no recurring costs. Its products are also designed to be efficient, yet inexpensive and long-lasting. d.light’s solar lamp, S2 — at $8 apiece — has the distinction of being the world’s most affordable, high-quality solar light.

The impact of these solar lights is not only financial but environmentally significant as well. Approximately 4 million tons of carbon dioxide production usage have been offset to date.

The solar lamps have cumulatively saved $275 million for families who previously spent 10 to 15 percent of their earnings on kerosene. The program has also created job opportunities by creating a local market for importing and selling d.light’s products.

d.light has sold more than 10 million solar lamps to date. Its goal is to reach 100 million people by 2020. With a dedication to providing affordable, efficient and safe electricity to millions of people in developing countries, d.light is set to realize its objectives and improve millions of lives.

Atifah Safi

Sources: D.light, Acumen, World Energy Outlook, Global Envision
Photo: Pixabay