UN and Botswana Bring Renewables to Rural Villages

Last night, I put a post up on Treehugger about a just-launched project in Nigeria to provide solar installations to 19 villages around the country that don’t have electricity. Tonight, I find out that Botswana, in partnership with the UN’s Development Programme, is doing the same thing in that country on a larger scale. From Renewable Energy Access:

The project aims at equipping some 65,000 households with solar-powered photovoltaic (PV) lighting instead of paraffin, by 2011, to help power more than 5,000 households that use domestic cooking gas as their source. The project will also facilitate the development of policy and institutional arrangements conducive to the integration and provision of off-grid renewable energy services within the country’s electricity programs, while also creating awareness among the general public about the advantages of clean solar energy.

This renewable energy-based project is funded for a period of five years by UNDP’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Government of Botswana to the tune of US$8.6 million, with Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) as the implanting partner.

Initially some 88 off-grid villages will benefit from this project using solar-powered heating systems and lighting appliances. Lessons learned will then be replicated throughout the country and integrated into the national electrical grid to promote renewable energy use nationwide.

“The program is envisaged to see Botswana make significant progress in the attainment of a number of the Millennium Development Goals,” said UNDP Energy & Environment Unit Manager, Leonard Dikobe.

I’m really happy to see these developments, as local renewable installations seem to make so much sense in areas of the world still untouched by electricity. Countries in Africa and Southern Asia that have been run by unstable or corrupt governments often have unreliable power grids that have suffered from years of neglect and abuse, so the costs of simply bringing them up-to-date, much less expanding them, is probably prohibitive. Yet, there’s no reason that people in remote areas who want electricity should have to wait for the grid to reach them when cheaper (and often more reliable) renewable installations can provide the power these people need to raise their quality of life. We’ve seen a number of instances of poorer countries experimenting with appropriate renewables — let’s hope we’re seeing a trend!

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