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02/07/2020 News

Energy Access during the Covid-19 pandemic (2/2)

Harare - Zimbabwe by KB Mpofu / ILO

In a previous article, we identified the difficulties met by the Energy access sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, actors of the sector are mobilizing to take up to the challenge and are proposing innovative solutions to alleviate the burden on affected populations.

Maintaining essentials operations

As stated in our previous article, energy access is as important as ever. It is therefore crucial for all actors of the supply chain to adapt their daily operations to ensure continuity in delivering access to energy for vulnerable communities, all the while complying with health and safety guidelines. The Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) underlines the importance of “advocating for off-grid solar to be recognized as an essential service. “[Essential services meet the basic needs of collective life and serve the general interest. Companies providing these services are licensed to circulate during lockdowns]”, allowing “providers to at least partially continue their operations amid the lockdown measures”.

Thanks to the efforts of GOGLA and their partners, even more countries —Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso— have now recognized off-grid solar as an essential service. The association also created a Covid-19 Resource Center, including business advice, health and security guidelines, advocacy resources, and a soon-to-come relief fund for the energy access sector. Thanks to the obtention of a special permit, Winch Energy, our partner operating mini grids in Sub-Saharan Africa, has been able to successfully install the first power unit of the Bunjako Island electrification project in Uganda.

Going further for communities

When discussing with partners and other actors of the sector, we are impressed by their willingness   to go the extra mile for communities.

According to Rick Sheridan, CEO of Sunny Irrigation, “farmers are critical path for food security in Kenya. As soon as we went into work-from-home, we sent a message to our farmers reinforcing Ministry of Health advisory messaging - best practices, washing hands, awareness about interactions with people coming recently from population centers”. They are also “redoubling focus onto the farmer advisory component of our business”, “keeping them apprised of market linkage opportunities and bringing to bear opportunities of [their] own for them”, including traditional medicinal herbs.

Our partner Solar Freeze, specialized in off-grid cold storage units, is working on “an extended timeline to provide clinics with effective cold storage units, [they] have also enrolled an additional 165 volunteers workers to help in rapid deployment and mapping out of critical clinics that need access to productive use asset”. According to CEO Dysmus Kisilu, “Thanks to the support from partners such as Total, Solar Freeze has extended its services to refugee clinics where we are working to offer units that will serve an estimated population of 3,000 refugees in North Eastern Kenya.”

Solidarity is crucial during these challenging times. We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication of all our partners to ensure energy access for vulnerable communities, even in times of lockdown. We are proud of being part of an industry who goes the last mile every day to reach customers and goes the extra mile to support them in times of crisis!

© Photo: Harare - Zimbabwe by KB Mpofu / ILO is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.