Access to Modern Forms of Energy Remains a Challenge

WORLDWIDE, 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity and 2.4 billion people lack modern fuels for cooking and heating. Four out of five people with no access to electricity live in developing countries and in rural areas, mainly in South Asia and sub- Saharan Africa.

Lack of adequate energy infrastructure forces more than a third of humanity (3 billion people) to cook and heat their homes by burning wood, dung and crop waste.

However, access to clean, affordable and modern forms of energy is at the heart of the sustainable energy agenda. In actual fact the United Nation has declared the century between 2014 and 2114 as the decade of Sustainable Energy for All hence deliver on three main objectives; ensure access to modern energy services for all by 2030; double the share of renewable energy; and double the rate of growth of energyefficiency.

Tanzania Education and Training policy 1995 has a free primary school education for all and currently every District Secondary School has to have a laboratory so as to improve performances for students taking science subjects. However, lack of energy is one of the factors affecting the performance of the students in remote areas in Tanzania.

Access to modern energy services improves a child’s access to education and helps retain girls and boys in school – especially girls, who traditionally fetch the firewood or other biomass fuels for cooking and heating.

Moreover, these families also face an impossible dilemma: Spend a lot of money in buying kerosene than saving the money for investments like education and cook with solid fuels and suffer the health consequences, or don’t eat a cooked meal. Smoke in the home leads to the deaths of nearly 800,000 children each year.

Newborns and infants are often carried on their mother’s back while she is cooking, or kept close to the warm hearth. As a result, they spend many hours breathing polluted air during their first years of life – just when their developing airways and their immune systems make them particularly vulnerable.

Due to these reasons, the WWF and its partners initiated an out of the box innovative project dubbed ‘the solar for education challenge’ through which they sought to facilitate improved public understanding and adoption of solar energy solutions for lighting in off-grid rural schools and the communities they serve.

This was done by building creative thinking to school children through essay competition. This project due to financial constraints lasted for four months and involved selected schools from Kisarawe and Rufiji districts in Coastal Region.

Last week the project ended but it left two schools beaming from ear to ear with a Solar PV system for four classrooms, toilet, laboratories, library, computer and printer.

The Kisarawe District Commissioner, Ms Subira Ngalu said during the launching of the Kimani Secondary School solar system said that she was very thankful to the WWF for coming up with the project for it complimented the efforts of the government of having electricity in schools.

Ms Ngalu also applauded the student who made it happen, Ms Theresea Lawrence for her writing skills that made it possible for the school to have electricity which she believes will go a long at ensuring students get better grades and for electricity related laboratory practical exercises to take place.

“This is indeed a historical day for the people of Kisarawe. Thanks to this project, talents have been exposed and I firmly believe there are many Thereseas out here, with respecting yourselves and upholding good morals, there is nothing that can’t be achieved,” she prompted.

The DC said that the government has been promoting the constructing of water projects in different parts of the country and relying on fuel to try and make them sustainable but with the high costs, it’s been challenging and henceforth has started relying on renewable energy to do so.

She said that as is with water projects, school off grid energy projects can be sustainable if the concentration is on renewable energy adding that the beneficiaries on the solar system will make good ambassadors to neighbouring villages to shift from kerosene use to solar.

The WWF Extractive and Renewable Energy Programme Coordinator, Dr Teresia Olemako explained that a total of ten schools took part in the competition, five primary schools in Rufiji and five secondary schools in Kisarawe with the question of how schools can influence transition from kerosene to solar power.

Dr Olemako said that there were a total of 80 entries of the essay competition involving 36 girls and 44 boys adding that the competence showed in the essays was very encouraging and hoped that with more funding and bigger participation of stakeholders, the competition can go national.

“The WWF is very thankful to the teachers and district officials who made all this happen. It is our hope that the message to shift to solar energy reaches more people because the negative effects of kerosene are right in front of people’s eyes,” she voiced. Kimani Secondary School Headmaster, Mr Nazarius Hongoa admitted that the competition was a very hard one but was very proud that a student from his school came out on top.

Mr Hongoa said that now that power was in his premises, he was seriously considering building a hostel but as a temporary measure, he would make room for students wanting to study at night because in their homes there is either a lot of work to do or the kerosene lamp has many demands.

According to the Lighting Africa website a study by the IFC-World Bank Lighting Africa programme indicates that the cost of kerosene for rural communities, who typically buy kerosene in small quantities generally much less than a litre, is even higher than previously estimated.

On average, rural households in five Sub-Saharan countries covered in the study pay 35% more for kerosene than their urban counterparts.

The price differential was most stark in Ghana, where kerosene in rural areas retailed at 170 per cent the price in urban centres. In Kenya, kerosene in the villages costs 46 per cent more than in pump stations in urban areas.

With world oil prices volatile and generally on the increase, rural families lighting their homes with kerosene lamps will likely be faced with a choice; they will have to decide whether to allocate less money to other daily necessities or to have fewer hours of nightly illumination, says Jennifer Tracy, lead author of the study titled The True Cost of Kerosene in Rural Africa.