Ghana addresses poverty with solar energy

Dec 01, 2011 12:00 AM

by Rebecca Quaicoe

Ghana generates most of its electricity from hydro and thermal sources. It depends on two hydroelectric power plants and two thermal power plants to generate its electricity supply.
Although the West African country has the potential to generate electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and small hydro, these sources are not exploited to any significant degree. The unreliable nature of the power grid in Ghana means that the country suffers frequent power outages and surges that have provoked those who can afford it to search for other means of keeping themselves turned on.

Over the years, individual companies have introduced energy sources utilising solar and wind power, but all these have been on a small scale targeting rural communities where the national power grid is unable to reach. One company which is changing the fortunes of the lives of rural people is the Atlas Business and Energy System (ABES), a private renewable energy company based in Ghana and Finland which launched Ghana's first locally produced solar panels in March, 2010.
According to ABES' Marketing Executive, Charles Amoah, the company aims to "provide both the low income and middle income home owners with new solar packages and information that would ensure energy savings".

According to him, adequate and cheap sources of energy such as solar panels must be used to reduce poverty to accelerate the country's quest to achieve international targets such as those included in the Millennium Development Goals.
Another company, Energy In Common (EIC), is supplying villages that are not hooked onto the national grid with lamps and baking ovens in order to assist school children to learn when the sun goes down, and to help their parents to generate more incomes with the solar powered ovens.

In the Nkwanta community in the rural parts of northern Ghana, Nkwanta, EIC is piloting its products with a number of individuals and their households who have benefited from solar lamps. This has led to a 70 % drop in the number of households using kerosene for light.
A third private enterprise that has begun to provide solar energy for poor communities in Ghana is Cadbury Dairy Milk. The UK-based company is providing solar panels for farmers in remote villages to power the energy needs on their farms as well as in their households.

According to Julie Reynolds, head of marketing for Cadbury Dairy Milk, "Through chatting and working with Ghanaian farmers, we know that through solar panels, it can benefit the lives of communities greatly, doing everything from powering health clinics to giving kids extra study time at night".
"This is what inspired us to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight 2011 by donating 20 % of our profits to funding solar panels."

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