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EU awards solar energy in Africa

The Dutch Rural Energy Foundation received the prestigious EU Sustainable Energy Award 2010 from EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.
The Rural Energy Foundation facilitated during the past three years access to solar energy to 330,000 off-grid Africans. The foundation was praised because of its high cost-effectiveness and the sustainability of its approach. The costs of facilitating access to energy are EUR 4 per person.

Access to energy is an important condition for development. Most rural households in Africa depend on kerosene lamps. Besides poor lighting quality, this is expensive and polluting.

Renewable energy allows these people to reduce their energy expenses, while increasing their productivity and enabling their children to study after sunset. Most rural Africans are not aware of the benefits of solar energy. They even cannot buy it in their vicinity.

The Foundation’s SolarNow program supports local entrepreneurs to start a business in solar energy household solutions. The Foundation supports 192 entrepreneurs in seven sub- Saharan African countries. The program organizes awareness campaigns to promote the use of solar energy.

Finally, as many households do not have the cash available to meet the upfront investment, SolarNow facilitates end-user credit schemes.

Director Willem Nolens reacts: “Great that the EU recognizes that market development for household renewable energy solutions in rural Africa tends to be more efficient and sustainable than community projects and grid extensions. Africa is facing an opportunity to leapfrog the carbon-intensive development path that industrialized countries followed”.

The Foundation receives financial support from the DOEN Foundation and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is currently raising funds to replicate its program in new countries.

Additional information: EU press release
News date: 25/03/2010

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