Solar power lights off grid areas


THE Global Tracking Framework (GTF) 2017 indicates that 1.06 billion people are living without electricity while another 3 billion rely on wood or other biomass for cooking and heating, resulting in air pollution that causes about 4.3 million deaths each year.

Despite concerted efforts by many developing countries to scale up energy access, no promising steps has been achieved save for a number of strategies in place to overcome the challenge.

However, Tanzania has recorded a milestone in making sure its populations both in rural and urban settings get access to electricity thanks to the participation of the private sector and other Independent Power Producers (IPPs). In recent years, many small scale solar lighting products have entered the Tanzanian market.

These are off-grid lighting products or systems that are stand-alone, rechargeable and can be installed, assembled and used easily without requiring assistance from a technician. They range from solar lanterns to small solar home systems (SMS) and typically consist of a small solar panel, a rechargeable battery, solar products can only be used for lighting, but the more advanced systems also offer phone charging services.

One of the private partners that have introduced solar energy is Solaris Offgrid currently operating in the Lake Zone Solar power lights off grid areas areas of Sengerema District, Mwanza Region and Katoro area in Geita region.

The Solaris Offgrid country manager Charlène Giraudier says her company chose to venture into the Lake Zone from November 2014, chosen for its low rural electrification rate of 4 percent then to start selling the Solaris devices, after sale services and mentoring concept to the consumers.

Already, she says about 500 households in Sengerema District and over 500 in Katoro are connected as the company looks ahead of connecting at least 2000 households by December this year.

“So far there are a handful of villagers in communities that have no grid access hence high willingness to acquire solar lighting products among rural Tanzanian household, especially when the device can also be used for lighting and phone charging given the fact that the communication industry growing so rapidly in the country,” she said.

Solaris Offgrid Marketing Manager Mr Bryson Hilaly says with the anticipation of many households connecting to the system, more strategies are afoot to focus on reaching many small scale businessmen along with farmers and fishing communities who are increasingly attracted to the company’s marketing strategies.

He mentioned one of the strategies as connecting the households, providing after sale services as well as introducing them to the payment system where they pay for the power and services every week at 5500/- and own the whole package after two to three years.

However, not all the households are fully aware of how the Solaris off grid system operates and this requires the company to deploy a special team of local technicians to provide awareness campaigns on the best practices and expected benefits compared to other renewable energies like biomass which globally discouraged.

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