Illuminating Rural Africa: Increased dissemination of solar energy technologies for rural electrification

Accelerating universal energy access in Ethiopia and Kenya through the use of decentralized solar energy technologies, to enhance electricity access and develop entrepreneurship in rural communities.



Power to Empower

TERI, with its long experience in the research and dissemination of solar PV technologies, has extended its expertise and services to the African continent for lighting up homes of thousands of people that do not have access to clean light with solar lanterns, under the aegis of its flagship programme 'Lighting a Billion Lives' (LaBL).



With support from DFID India, TERI is implementing an energy access project in two selected countries in Africa - Ethiopia and Kenya. The objective is to identify barriers to promotion of clean energy options in Sub Saharan Africa, share lessons and best practices from the Indian context in the area of policy, regulation, financing, and technology and delivery models and demonstrate the techno-social viability of the decentralized solar energy applications and improved cook-stoves to bring improved quality of life to the rural households in the region.



Power to Empower

It is in this context, that a collaborative workshop on 'Dissemination of Solar Energy Technology for Rural Electrification: Challenges and Opportunities" was held by TERI jointly with the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network (HoAREC) and The African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively.

These workshops focused on the challenges and market availability for solar powered products in their countries and drew participants from the Ministry of Water and Energy, , and county level energy bureaus, as well as the Industry, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society organizations, practitioners and researchers.



Another critical aspect of the workshops conducted was to identify opportunities and challenges affecting diffusion and wider adoption of solar energy technologies for decentralized application and rural electrification and explore potential measures for scaling up the dissemination to enhance electricity access. Other specific objectives were; to identify existing gaps in the solar energy arena for rural electrification, to deliberate on the potential of solar energy to address energy poverty and finally to analyze and evaluate government's plan on solar power and strive towards adoption of low carbon technologies.



Power to Empower

Highlighting the importance of this initiative, State Minister of Energy in Ethiopia, Kebede Gerba, said in the workshop conducted in Ethiopia that "Development of large hydropower is being carried out primarily by undertaking stringent environmental and social impact assessments". Focus is also given to the development of small and micro hydropower as they are suitable and economical in electrifying remote rural areas and for the establishments of agro-processing plants and productive activities in rural Ethiopia.



Dr Ben Muok, Director of Programmes, ACTS chaired the inaugural session of the workshop in Kenya and in his opening remarks envisaged that DFID India is supporting the research activities pertaining to the improved clean technologies as well as their private sector-led business models. He also addressed that, these innovative research activities are found to be very effective in increasing the community awareness, generating demand, in enabling provisions for development of appropriate products and services and thereby in promotion of solar lighting solutions on a much wider scale. Dr. Cosmas Ochieng, Executive Director of ACTS in his address said that sustainable energy is a fundamental challenge in Sub-Sahara Africa. He stated that we are never going to run out of sun shine, however the challenges is how do we make the solar power affordable and accessible to the poor people.



Power to Empower

Mr Debajit Palit, Associate Director, TERI gave a brief on TERI and its portfolio in Africa. In his address in the workshops, he deliberated on how the TERI-ACTS and TERI-HoAREC initiative, supported by DFID India, is attempting to create access to finance, technology and services through demonstration of techno-social viability of the decentralized solar energy applications and improved biomass cook stoves through innovative business models and financing options. In addition to the demonstration projects, the project is also supporting capacity development of stakeholders through training programmes, workshops and exchange visits for cross learning. He also suggested that attempts should be made to develop solar entrepreneurs in the rural areas to take the product and service closer to the door steps of rural community. This would benefit the nation by allowing rural houses which are far apart from accessing power, creating more jobs for people to maintain the equipment and supply more solar equipment and energy efficient stoves.. He hopes that private and public enterprises will join forces to find the best way to utilize the sunshine available in plenty in these countries.



Power to Empower

Governments in both the two countries have well recognized the need of providing electric power to their rural communities. To facilitate this, they have put in place regulations, which enable formation of institutions to administer rural electrification projects through renewable energy. Besides institutions, suppliers and energy service companies are playing a major role in the dissemination, training and development of rural energy. Hence effort in creating conducive atmosphere by of enacting appropriate legislations, financing options and in the coordination of activities of the various actors in the area are carried out and every means of encouragement and sharing of best practices are being made in this direction.

Numerous sessions took place during both the workshops and the dialogue also highlighted case studies, marketing perspectives, innovative methodologies, quality benchmarks and policies in energy sector etc. Parallel to the workshops in Ethiopia, HoAREC also organized a solar exhibition which witnessed many private businesses displaying the solar powered products. A supplier told the workshop that one of the problems facing the solar products sector in Ethiopia was that the government did not have enough awareness and expected to buy state-of-the art products for a cheaper price than they were actually worth and such type of exhibition provide them the opportunities to understand the market and provide better quality of products.



PMI Awards 2013


The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) was the recipient of the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Project of Year (2013) award for the NGO category. The award specifically recognized TERI's work and contribution to society under "Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL)" initiative.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the world's largest not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession. Since 2009, PMI India has been administering the PMI Professional Awards Program on an annual basis. PMI India has established six award categories to recognize and honour contributions and achievements in the project management profession, namely Large, Medium and Small-scale projects, Contribution to the Community, NGO, and Practitioner of the Year. The 2013 winners of these six awards (out of 77 nominations) were announced on 27 September 2013 as part of the PMI National Conference 2013 which took place in Hotel Leela Kempinski in Gurgaon, Haryana.


PMI took into account LaBL's model in terms of project processes and last mile delivery which are strategically carried out to effectively provide clean lighting solutions to rural communities across selected states in India. It was highlighted that the award took cognizance of the processes more than the product. The PMI jury made special mention about the robust processes and accountability mechanisms that LaBL initiative has established across the board.

Setting national standards and performance benchmarks for improved cookstoves and solar lighting solutions for Ethiopia


TERI and Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network (HoA-REC&N) organized a Technology Discussion Forum (TDF) on “Benchmarks and Standardization of Improved Cookstoves and Solar Systems in Ethiopia” in Addis Ababa on 23 May 2013. This one-day forum brought together relevant stakeholders from the Ministry of Water and Energy, Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise (ECAE), GIZ, Ethiopian Solar Energy Society, solar equipment dealers, cookstove fabricators, NGO’s, and consultants in the Ethiopian energy sector.

The Executive Director of HoA-REC&N, Dr Araya Asfaw, in his opening remarks noted that HoA-REC&N is aggressively working on sustainable and renewable energy sources for Ethiopian households with support from various partners, such as TERI and GIZ. Dr Asfaw added that “clean development is the priority of the country and therefore setting standards for cookstoves and solar lighting technologies is the need of the hour, which can contribute to Ethiopia’s growth and transformation plan and the journey towards building a climate resilient green economy”.

The workshop focused on two key components of energy access—solar lighting solutions and improved cookstoves systems. Presentations and panel-moderated discussions on: 1) the current status of quality standards and performance benchmarks for improved cook stoves and solar lighting in Ethiopia and 2) the need and ways of improving the quality control checks of solar lighting solutions and cookstoves, was held during the TDF.

The TDF concluded with participants acknowledging the importance of quality standards and performance benchmarks for solar lighting solutions and clean cookstoves and proposing to the Ministry of Water and Energy the formation of a working group, composed of the Ministry of Water and Energy, ECAE, Ethiopian Standards Agency, GIZ, HoAREC&N/TERI, and representation from solar companies and cookstove fabricators, to work on the formulation of a national minimum standard and benchmarks for solar lighting solutions and improved cookstoves in Ethiopia.

Extending Clean Lighting in Congo


Armed with the twin objectives of providing access to clean lighting to impoverished villages and facilitating green job opportunities by promoting rural entrepreneurship, LaBL has now reached the Republic of Congo with piloting of Solar Charging Stations (SCSs) in the villages of Mayako and Mougoundou Nord districts during May 2013.

The initiative strengthened its roots through the support provided by Planet Workshops under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed during December 2011 and forming the association Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) France. The collaborative effort was further strengthened with the involvement of the Association for Congolese Development (ACDA), a local NGO which has been working on community development initiatives. While Planet Workshops raised funds for piloting the initiative, ACDA acted as the local implementing agency and TERI provided the technical support and training to foster South-South cooperation and expand the provision of clean lighting in the country.

The problem of energy deficiency is grave in the Republic of Congo, with only 10 per cent of the rural households having access to electricity. The predominant source of lighting is kerosene which is an expensive proposition for the inhabitants. The lanterns rented from the solar charging stations, set up under the collaborative initiative, is expected to provide sustainable and affordable clean lighting solutions to the local community.

LaBL in Uganda


Uganda became the fourth country in Africa (after Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Kenya) to benefit from the Lighting a Billion Lights campaign, with the successful establishment of six solar charging stations (SCS), each equipped with facilities for charging 100 lanterns, and a solar mobile charging facility in Kwarkwar village, Mbale district. The project was funded and implemented by Actis and Umeme (the electricity distribution company in Uganda) as part of their corporate social responsibility initiative. TERI provided technical support to foster South–South cooperation and expand provision of clean lighting in the country.

To ensure sustainability of the charging stations, TERI also provided technical training with regard to the installation, operation, and maintenance of the solar PV systems, lanterns, and mobile phone charging system to Umeme technicians during the installations. The training included instructions on trouble shooting for different faults, such as replacing fuses, circuit boards, and LEDs. As part of the initiative, TERI had also organized an exposure visit for one of the senior managers from Umeme to similar LaBL installations in Indian villages.

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LIGHTING A BILLION LIVES