Solar power for rural electrification
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CTA. 2008. Solar power for rural electrification. Rural Radio Resource Pack 08/3. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57333
Cameroon?s drive to spread the technology
Solar power for rural electrification Cue: If you live in a rural area, the chances are you are listening to this programme on a battery powered radio. In fact, across Africa, less than ten per cent of rural families have access to a national electricity grid. Yet all African countries are fantastically rich in one source of power ? solar energy. And technologies exist to turn this power into electricity. Despite this, however, the use of photo-voltaic cells to generate electricity from sunlight is almost non-existent in most African countries. Very few energy ministries have taken solar power seriously, and while in the northern hemisphere, governments offer subsidies to solar power companies and consumers, the same has rarely happened in Africa. One reason for the poor spread of solar power is that governments have typically seen it as a donor-driven technology. Recently, however, Cameroon has taken a different view, as Martha Chindong found out when she spoke to Nsangou Bouba Aliyu from the Rural Electrification Agency in Yaound‚. IN: ?Considering the high prices of fuel ? OUT: ? there to give back the energy.? DUR?N: 4?48? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Nsangou Bouba Aliyu, a technician in Cameroon?s Rural Electrification Agency. The interview comes from a resource pack produced by CTA. Transcript Chindong Considering the high prices of fuel what then prevents African countries from using renewable energy technologies in agricultural production? Take solar energy for example. That is what motivated Martha Chindong to stop by at the Rural Electrification Agency in Yaound‚, Cameroon to find out what can by done. One of the technicians working there was at the standby to answer my questions. Bouba Solar energy, it has a big potential in the African continent because energy is everywhere in Africa, there is enough sunlight. So for the obstacles, since the material for solar systems is imported from overseas and materials are expensive so companies can come and install here in Cameroon so as to bring down the cost. Chindong What are some of the advantages of taking electricity to the rural communities? Bouba There are so many advantages. I will take for example the improvement of the living conditions of the rural masses. There is the fight against rural exodus. There is also the creation of income generating activities if these projects are done in the villages. Chindong Does installing solar energy have any advantage over the national electricity? Bouba It solves specific needs which does not entail heavy cost, for example in health centres, schools that are very far off from the network. Secondly this energy is some sort of clean energy, a silent type of energy and is not dangerous and is very practical because the costs of operating and maintenance is virtually nil. Chindong Are there specific uses of solar energy for farmers? Bouba Yes for farmers there are specific uses. Let me say it can be used for water supply, for drinking and even irrigation. It can also be used to transform and conserve agricultural produce. Chindong When you say solar energy is silent energy, what do you mean? Bouba I mean that solar energy does not make any noise like when you start generators which make a hell of a noise, it disturbs. Chindong What factors do you look for when you want to install solar energy in a rural community? Bouba First of all and which is very much important, we have to carry out good studies. We see the options and the material that the villagers will use like radios, fridges, machines. Then we will match it up with the energy needed. The second factor is a good maintenance of the equipment. There should be somebody there to maintain this equipment. Chindong What of the users when they use the energy for these activities, do they need to pay a price? Bouba This depends whether it is an individual installation. If it is an individual installation they don?t need to pay a price because it is for the home and nobody else. But if it is something like a collective installation it entails an operator who manages the running of the installation and for this case people have to pay some price for him to sustain the management cost. Chindong Let me know from you, the villagers can they keep the project running without the help of technicians? Bouba For this case the project cannot be run like that. It needs a technician or let me say local technicians to carry out the running of the installations. Chindong And for maintenance too? Bouba Yes and for maintenance and that?s one mission of rural electrification agencies, to assist the rural population, train local technicians who will look after these installations. Chindong For now the funding of solar energy is done solely by the government. Is it only the government that can fund or are there other possibilities of having funds? Bouba Normally it is not only the government, you have individuals or communities which can regroup to acquire their own solar systems. Chindong What is the hope for the future? Bouba I think we should be hopeful because following what we are seeing now concerning the fuel prices, you see that the prices are going higher and higher for fuel and everything, but the prices of solar systems they are gradually coming down as the other prices are going up. So we should be hopeful that in the coming years the prices are going to fall very low. Chindong So Mr Bouba, before we go I do not know is there any last word? Bouba I just want to emphasise that solar energy is good because it is a clean type of energy and it is renewable. And by renewable I mean that the sun is always there. The equipment can go off, get bad or something but they will replace it. Meanwhile the sun is there to give back the energy. End of track