Solar Aid urges industry to help fuel African switch to renewables

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Charity offers new corporate opportunities to help it eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020

UK charity SolarAid is calling on the solar sector to take on the African solar market - from the bottom up.

Following founder Jeremy Leggett's trip to Kenya and Zambia earlier this year, SolarAid sent out an appeal to the UK solar sector to support the industry in Africa.

Energy access in Africa is quite clearly not going to be fuelled by antiquated fossil fuels. Every day more and more reports explain that Africa will leap frog fossil fuels and go straight to renewables for its energy needs. Anecdotal information backs this up too. SolarAid is daily told about company pipelines, including more African governments and solar businesses in South Africa that are recruiting 20 staff at a time to cope with rising demand.

Much like the landline telephones that have been bypassed for mobile phones, a fossil fuel future looks unlikely for rural off-grid communities and it's not even being considered by the majority of governments. There are no serious grid expansion plans in place for rural Africa, in fact rural energy needs rarely garner any national policy attention.

The solar sector is at the forefront of reducing global carbon emissions, and is perfectly placed to support SolarAid in its mission to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa. More and more the solar sector is realising that the long-term growth of the industry will focus on the African consumer, as battery technology advances and PV panels get cheaper the need for African customers to know and trust in Solar becomes more apparent.

SolarAid already enjoys a healthy amount of support from the sector. It was founded by Solarcentury which donates five per cent of its annual profits. Other players such as PlanetSolarNI have product incentive schemes for their customers and donate a light in Africa for every domestic rooftop.

However, we are now offering new opportunities for corporate partnerships that offer co-branding and communications opportunities, as well as country visits and staff engagement schemes.

PlanetSolar NI's Andrew Baird highlighted the benefits it has brought to his company.

"We have a great little business, and we measure our success in part, by how many donations we make," he said. "We're up to about 150 solar lights equivalent! Imagine if every solar installer in the UK got on board? There's 4,000 of us..." 

SolarAid is a partner of the BusinessGreen Solar Hub

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