Solar Street Light: The cost-effective solution for Africa
Solar Street light can be vital to plans of African development and the reason is over 75% of the population in Africa lack access to public lighting. As a result, solar lights can fill in that gap adequately and effectively. Additionally, it comes with the benefits of promoting the safety of the communities, enhancing security and making it possible for businesses to function for much longer into the night.
Stakeholders, municipal councils and the government are now noticing the potential solar street light holds and the key role it can play in the modernization of current street light structure to attain set objectives in energy efficiency. Additionally, the reduction of carbon footprints is driving people towards solar solutions.
According to the Transparency Marker Research (TMR), it is predicted that developing worlds like Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific will add substantially to the growth of solar street light industry up to 2025. This will be aided by government regulations aimed at reducing energy costs along with an international and regional partnership with non-governmental organizations. This will result in a higher number of programmed street lights.
As pointed out earlier, street light is seriously lacking in cities in sub-Sahara Africa and for some cities that are embracing solar street light, the number is seriously low on the rate of adoption. For example, in the Ugandan city of Kampala, about 8% of the whole city street and paved road network is lighted.
For cities with a very strict budget, solar street light or any street light at all is way down on the list of priority. Even in a situation where there is a willing political institution, they are faced with huge obstacles when trying to implement traditional street lighting project. As some parts of the cities house large informal settlement that is hooked to the national power grid. Consequently, the huge starting cost of conventional street light infrastructure and connection to the grid often dissuade the government from embarking on such a project. However, this can be solved by embracing solar street light solution which is very cost-effective due to its low maintenance cost as well as easy and off-grid installation.
West Africa looks into Solar Street light.
Countries in West Africa such as Nigeria are currently embracing the idea of the solar street light. For example, in Lagos, Nigeria, the state government secure a partnership with a UK company called Low Energy Designs Limited as it plans to embark on the installation of 10,000 LED solar street light. Additionally, an MOU was signed between the two on the construction of a $7M LED lighting and Hybrid Energy Power Assembly Plant in the Lagos. The facility when completed will serve as a center for developing, training, and testing LED lighting as well as renewable energy technologies.
Furthermore, the facility is expected to bring in a projected 500 news jobs to the hosting communities. The project will cover 31% of Lagos state total street light, which is expected to be completed in the next 12 months.
East Africa also looking into the solar street light
Just as solar street light is gaining ground in the Western part of Africa, it seems it is becoming quite popular in the East too. In Ugandan for example, the two cities of Kampala and Jinja adopted the use of solar street light and discovered that the installation of a solar light pole cost $1,600 each compared to a conventional street light pole costing $2,150. A nationwide adoption will see the Ugandan government save 25% on upfront cost, 60 % maintenance cost, and 40% on electricity cost.
Solar Street Light comes with benefits to the host communities
The local communities seem to be enjoying the added benefits that come from the installation of the solar street light project. For example, in Jinja low-income area residents that had solar street lights installed commented on the positives of the solar light in the communities. It improved the security of the street and help small businesses extend business hours every day by an additional five hours. This will help low-income earners make more money per day.
There is more to what solar street light can do, for instance, apart from increasing the trading period for the day. It also helps save cost on electricity consumption and the government can divert this savings to providing other social amenities as well as more solar light.
The challenges faced
Although, it has been established that the usage of solar lights comes with benefits, however, there are still challenges faced in the adoption of solar applications. For example, many cities in Africa doesn’t have the local expertise that can implement and plan new solar street lighting programs. As a result, they have to depend on external body to help develop the plans for solar projects. This takes the necessary investment away from the domestic markets at the expense of national growth.
Another challenge is that cities can lack adequate resources to fund the intimal cost. Even thou, the economic benefits of using solar lights over traditional lights have been established. However, the economic power of these cities can make the project unaffordable.
However, these challenges can be overcome if the governments embrace a healthy regulatory framework that can boost the domestic solar industry and keep it under proper control. The capacity of national bodies to finance, plan and deliver on solar projects should be improved upon. Additionally, there should adequate involvement of the necessary stakeholders such as the hosting communities in the execution and implementation of these projects.
Solar street lights have almost zero operating costs due in part to the fact that its source of energy is free and renewable. This makes it the ideal cost-effective solution to Africa street lighting problems, unlike the traditional lighting solutions that come with huge bills and costs of maintenance.