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Report: Five off-grid solar technologies that can help millions

The potential of five off-grid solar technologies for hundreds of millions of the most climate-vulnerable people in the world – who have done the least to contribute to climate change – can help build climate resilience and adapt to increasing extreme weather events, while mitigating emissions.

A recent report by the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) lists these technologies as solar energy kits (with communications appliances), solar irrigation, solar-powered fans, solar refrigeration units and solar-powered cold storage rooms.

The Powering Climate Adaptation and Justice: The Critical Role of Off-Grid Solar Technologies report points out that those most vulnerable to climate change have contributed the least to this urgent challenge.

“Worse still, they cannot access the resources they need to protect themselves from the extreme weather events they are now forced to endure. For hundreds of millions of people, this includes a lack of electricity and the life-enhancing and life-saving appliances and services it powers.”


The US Department of Energy’s International Energy Annual 2002, said that Africa “can easily be said to contribute the least of any continent to global warming.”

“Each year Africa produces an average of just over one metric ton of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide per person.”

The African Development Bank says Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts under all climate scenarios above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Despite having contributed the least to global warming and having the lowest emissions, Africa faces exponential collateral damage, posing systemic risks to its economies, infrastructure investments, water and food systems, public health, agriculture, and livelihoods, threatening to undo its modest development gains and slip into higher levels of extreme poverty.”

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Renewable energy lighting up homes, businesses

The GOGLA report says that if we do not place energy-poor communities at the heart of the clean energy transition, it cannot be fair, just or inclusive. But strides are being made through the use of renewable energy technology.

It notes that off-grid solar technologies are already powering millions of climate-vulnerable homes and businesses across sub-Saharan Africa, and south and south-east Asia.

“At the family, community and national levels, they are providing access to modern energy services, creating energy security, reducing reliance on expensive and often imported fossil fuels, and enabling economic opportunities for those most in need.”

Also, nearly half a billion people have already improved their energy service and security through solar energy kits (lanterns and solar home systems), with 214 million of them achieving Tier 1 electricity access and more than 120 million gaining Tier 2+ access.

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Solar energy kits are also powering millions of micro and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). The report says that solar irrigation systems and refrigeration units are now serving hundreds of thousands of farms and businesses and providing life-saving health infrastructure.

“Emerging solar technologies such as walk-in cold rooms, cold storage for transportation and agricultural processing are also showing transformative potential.”

These technologies may be less portable than smaller lighting and home system kits, but, as the report points out, they are also de-linked from grid-scale infrastructure, making them less vulnerable to blackouts and changes in fuel costs.

Off-grid solutions hook millions up to radios, TVs

In terms of communications appliances, an estimated 4.3 million solar-powered radios, 1.9 million solar TVs and 30 million off-grid solar energy kits with phone charging capacity have been sold to date.

The majority of these have been to rural customers who struggle to access basic connectivity services.

“These have reached over 165 million people. Customer insights illustrate how valuable these are for gaining critical information. For example, surveys of thousands of customers in East and West Africa found that having a solar home system enabled the vast majority to use their phones more (89% and 93% respectively).

“While data from solar TV customers found that more than 50% reported that their knowledge and education had significantly improved and another 45% said that it had improved a little. 45 90% reported improved access to the news.”

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The report says that ensuring the poorest get the energy and energy services they need to respond to a warming climate will require the use of philanthropic and development finance to de-risk the off-grid industry.

It will also need governments to partner with the sector to create an enabling environment for the rapid transformation of WASH, agriculture and energy systems, and necessitate extensive capacity building and innovation.

“With concerted action, off-grid solar solutions can support the development of a powerful green economy across energy poor regions; one which is climate resilient, helps to combat climate change and ensures that those most vulnerable to are no longer left behind,” the report concludes.

See GOGLA’s full Powering Climate Adaptation and Justice: The Critical Role of Off-Grid Solar Technologies report.

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ESI Africa
Content Team
ESI Africa is the global leader in disseminating African utility, energy, power, mobility and water market news and insights. We provide over 50,000 professionals with renowned high quality and insightful editorial, equipping them with essential information to drive their own businesses.
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