Three ways Africans are making cheap do-it-yourself electricity
13 April 2012
Christian Science Monitor - 12 April 2012
Across Africa, simple carbon-free technologies and local creative partnerships have the electrical juices flowing, expanding grid access and prosperity.
In countries like Kenya and Tanzania, 80 to 90 percent of the population lacks access to electricity from an established grid, according to Fast Company. Although electric grids exist in most urban areas, connecting to them and paying monthly bills is too expensive for most residents. And in rural areas, access is even rarer.
For the 580 million people without grid access on the continent, that means resorting to kerosene lamps that harm health and the environment for meager amounts of light, and walking long distances for simple tasks like charging mobile phones. And as mobile technology use skyrockets in Africa, it's increasingly recognized as an important anti-poverty tool. Being off the grid not only keeps people in the dark. It also keeps people poor.
But three innovative approaches aim to brighten the future by expanding affordable grid access and harnessing renewable energy sources with minimal carbon emissions:
1. Turbines from scrap give new meaning to "local power." A Kenyan company is finding power in scrapyards. While solar energy is abundant in Africa, and solar panels are generally cheaper than wind turbines, Kenya-based Access:energy is making wind power work in rural regions. Its trick? Funded by NGOs, donors, and consumers, Access:energy teaches locals to build reliable turbines using existing scrap metal and car parts already present in communities.