Lighting Africa Conference and what the challenges it unfolds
For three-days over 500 renewable energy experts, financiers, manufacturers of energy saving compact fluorescent, and light emitting diode bulbs met in Accra under the 2008 Lighting Africa Conference and exhibition to deliberate on how to bring cheap and safe light to Africa where over 250 million people have been described variously as lighting poor.
The event organised by the World Bank and its private sector financing body the International Finance Corporation, provided a forum for international and local lighting industry entrepreneurs to learn more about emerging off-grid lighting against the fact that crude oil price for powering thermal plants continues to rise.
It is already predicted that the crude oil prices could hit the 200 dollar mark within six months and this could make countries without cheap crude oil supply or hydro-electric power resort to power rationing that can result in the collapse of industries and its attendant repercussions on the lives of people. Deliberations at the conference focused among others things on quality control and standardization of energy saving equipment and lightings, production cost ranges, financing, as well as environmental impacts of the disposal of energy efficient lights. Participants were quite open in their discussions no wonder even on the closing day participants were still full of vim in discussing issues and the way forward.
To climax the conference was an awards ceremony during which winners of a proposals on the best innovative solutions for off-grid lighting for Africa and were awarded up to 200 thousand dollars each to actualise their proposals. This followed the invitation of proposals on innovative solutions for off-grid lighting options for Africa which attracted over 400 proposals from 54 countries.
Out of the 400 proposals received 52 from 38 countries were short listed for the final round and their presenters were invited to be part of the conference. 16 of the 52 were voted and therefore receive the grants. They as well as the non winners were taken through a day's training programme on how to best make reality out of their proposals. On thing that was left on the minds of many is the fact that Africa is really a dark continent because inspite of it being sunny most day of the year, light the night has been a great challenge.
Some countries like Sierra Leone, has only 4% of grid lighting while some can only boast of 7 to 10 percent of coverage. Ghana stood in a better position with up to 46 percent from 11 percent in 1990. The challenge is therefore everyone's any contribution that will help change the statistics that Africa though not very well lighted spends at 15% of their income only provide inefficient light most of which are environmentally unfriendly.
A number of recommendations came out one of which is the argument between initial cost outlay for procuring alternative energy sources like the solar panel, batteries and inverters and its cleanliness and the choice of existing grid power choices.
It is clear that managers of countries must do well to put systems in place to make acquisition of such devices to spread over a period while backing the percentage of use of such options policies that are backed by legislation. It is only by so doing that national expenditure of fossil fuels for power generation will be brought down to benefit all.
By Rayborn Bulley, a Journalist