By Sanou Dieudonné, Program Officer at OCADES Caritas Dédougou, Burkina Faso and member of the expert group of CNPDER BF

As partners of the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP), I had the opportunity to participate in the V4CP exchange visit in Ghana, in November 2018. This learning visit provided a unique opportunity to share experiences from the different V4CP countries (Ghana, Kenya, Honduras and Burkina Faso), and to learn what sector players in Ghana are doing, how they are doing it, and the successes recorded.

V4CP Energy team at Black Star MiniGrid in Ghana

V4CP Energy team at Black Star MiniGrid in Ghana

During the first day of this visit, we learned about the other countries, organisations and experiences in the work with policy makers to promote clean cooking and access to energy for off-grid populations, both in the respective countries and globally. In the afternoon, we visited a laboratory for testing improved cookstoves at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in the city of Accra.

The second day, the day began with a visit to a mini-grid facility providing power to the village of Pediatokope, located on an island more than 70 km from Accra. After a three-hour drive and a motorised boat crossing, we discovered a modern wind-solar installation providing electricity to more than 150 households 24 hours a day. This state-owned mini-grid based on solar and wind proves that it is possible to provide renewable energy solutions to rural people who are not connected to the national grid. An experience more than enriching for all visitors.

After return to Accra, the visit continued on the premises of PEG Africa, a progressive mobile-based Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) solar company. The company provides households in rural areas with an affordable solar kit, with payment methods adapted to what the population can afford. With this kit, households located in off-grid areas have lighting, and the option for a TV or radio. The kits, including a remote monitoring device, are installed on-site at the client’s house for each user, thanks to dozens of agents working at the company headquarters in Accra, in other big cities like Kumasi, and in the field. Thanks to effective marketing, the product has been favourably received by the local population and millions of kits are currently installed throughout Ghana and Ivory Coast. Thanks to the success of the initiative, the company plans to expand in several other African countries such as Burkina Faso and Senegal. A business model to take as an example in order to reach access to clean and affordable energy for all, including the populations of rural localities (Sustainable Development Goal 7).

From Accra we travelled to Kumasi, and from there to Asempa, located about thirty kilometres from Kumasi. Fields of cocoa as far as the eye can see. Here, there is no telephone network or electricity. In the field we met an agent from PEG Africa, who came to present his product to the people. We witnessed the expression of a real need for energy access by the people. We visited the solar home system installed for the benefit of a household. According to woman living in the house, the system “overcomes the black, and provides light for our children learning for school”. Another solar installation benefitted a family headed by a woman. This shows that the business model of PEG Africa is socially inclusive.

PEG Africa Solar household 'the black overcome'

PEG Africa Solar household ‘the black overcome’

In Kumasi, we visited another initiative: the production and distribution of improved cookstoves to households for affordable prices. From the raw material of sheet metal and clay, the company Man and Man runs a giant workshop employing 32 people, with an estimated weekly production capacity of 2,000 units. “Our production can not meet the demand,” says Michael Yaw, head of the company. Thus, thanks to this production, this company saves millions of tons of forest resources for Ghana, which makes it possible to prevent thousands of tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Not surprisingly, the company was awarded the SEED Award in 2011, and has benefited for some time from carbon credits.

The next morning, we visited two private mini-grid installations, solar installations set up by the company Black Star Energy. One of the installations, in the village of Daban, consists of 36 solar panels of 275 Watts each, with a total capacity of about 9.6 Kilowatts, distributed to more than 60 households, providing electricity 24 hours a day. Some households use the energy to run a small business: shop, sales of cooled drinks, etc. We discovered several appliances inside homes: televisions, refrigerator, freezer, etc. The health centre is also connected and health workers testify to the impact of such an initiative in this locality that seems to be forgotten by the state. This proves that private companies can invest in rural electrification, despite the reluctance of the Ghanaian state, through the commissioning of private solar mini-grids.

This exchange visit provided a great opportunity to learn from the knowledge and experience of our V4CP partners, and of key stakeholders in the Ghanaian energy sector. On the last day of the visit, we had the opportunity to share our learnings with the Mines and Energy Parliamentary Committee in Ghana. We emphasised the importance of putting in place the right policies supporting private sector companies in the installation of mini-grids in rural communities.