More that 500 global players from the lighting industry, international and domestic financial institutions, private developers, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and international and bilateral development partners as well as 50 manufacturers of energy saving and off grid lights are attending the Lighting Africa 2008 Global Business Conference which opened in Accra Tuesday.
The conference is to develop appropriate and viable business models for delivering modern, clean and safe non-fuel based off-grid lighting solutions Deputy Minister of Energy, Kwame Ampofo Twumasi who opened the event announced that the Ministry of Energy is implementing a programme that will provide up to 50% grant financing to rural dwellers to purchase solar home systems and solar lanterns.
About 15,000 rural households in off-grid communities are expected to benefit from the programme being implemented under the Ghana Energy Development Access Project. He said funds for the purchase of the items would be channelled through the rural banks. Mr Twumasi said government planned to establish a Rural Electrification Agency to be solely responsible for providing cost effective rural electrification options including renewable energy throughout the country. Currently, over 3,000 communities have been connected to the national electricity grid under the National Electrification Scheme initiated some 20 years ago, bringing electricity access to 56% of the people.
Mr Twumasi said to ensure accelerated increase in rural access government had streamlined the National Electrification Scheme to ensure that all outstanding works in 300 communities provided with electricity under the Self-Help Electrification Programme would be completed in 2008. He said the only way to provide electricity to remote rural communities, which could not be connected to the national grid, was to make available to them efficient battery powered Direct Current Lamps.
But the cost of these lamps, he said, was often beyond the reach of the poor rural majority. He expressed the hope that the Lighting Africa Program initiated by the World Bank and IFC would provide a major breakthrough for governments in developing countries like Ghana to offer a means to rapidly deliver modern lighting services at reduced cost to the rural poor. Mr Ishac Diwan, World Bank-Ghana Country Director, said the idea behind the conference was to ensure access to cheap technology to assist the poor to have access to off-grid lighting. It is also designed to increase awareness of the significant market opportunities for improving lighting products and services and to link global investors with local suppliers and service providers.
An estimated US$20bn is spent every year by 500 million people, who are not connected to the grid, on fuel-based lighting, a major source of carbon dioxide emissions. The conference will culminate in award to winners of the Development Marketplace Grant Competition (DMGC). The DMGC is a programme which seeks to award up to US$200,000 each to about 15 to 20 finalists for presenting the most innovative and viable proposals for designing, developing, and delivering modern off-grid lighting products and services to sub-Saharan Africa.