Graphic Business News

Mini-grids improve livelihoods in island communities

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
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Minigrid system at Kudorkope in  Krachi East district
Minigrid system at Kudorkope in Krachi East district

PLANS by the government to extend electricity to island and lakeside communities in the country through the provision of mini-grids will enable Ghana to quickly reach its target of 10 per cent renewables in the national energy mix by 2030, a report has said.

It said that the decision would enable the provision of high-quality electricity to over two million people in these difficult-to-reach communities, who had suffered many years of neglect and might not have access to electricity from the national grid in 10 to 20 years’ time.

The work by the Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (CEESD) on ways local authorities can help accelerate rural electrification in Ghana will be boosted, while carbon emissions will be reduced to enable Ghana to meet its international emissions obligations, since mini-grids are powered mostly from renewable energy resources such as solar and biomass.

Impact of mini-grids
The CESSD has been advocating for accelerated deployment of mini-grids in Island communities, with support from the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) through its Voice for Change Partnership Programme (V4CP).

The report said mini-grids, which were small and independent electricity generation and distribution systems, could offer many social, economic and environmental benefits to rural communities and the country at large.

They improve the quality of life and the standard of living through the availability of electricity for households, industry and services.

The presence of lighting improves education by enabling pupils to study and teachers to prepare their lessons in the evening. It also enables women to plan and manage their household chores better, thereby reducing labour.

In the health sector, community nurses can attend to patients at night while administering drugs which are well preserved due to availability of refrigeration facilities. At the community level, opinion leaders can meet regularly in the evenings after work, allowing for improved dialogue, information sharing and social cohesion. 

“Economically, mini-grids investments will enable the potential of rural communities to be harnessed. The productive use of electricity can be realised in many sectors which are critical to the growth of rural areas, including agriculture, agro-processing and trading,” it stated.

However, the absence of electricity has rendered the potential for rural economic empowerment uncertain and this results in slow growth, lack of jobs and despondency among the youth.

In the fishing sector, the lack of facilities for freezing forces fishermen and traders to sell their catch at low prices in order to avoid spoilage.
Entrepreneurs are faced with few opportunities for processing agricultural produce into higher value commodities for sale within and outside the local communities due to unavailability of electricity.

Energy Masterplan
The Renewable Energy Masterplan envisions the acceleration of mini-grids from the current five to about 580 systems by 2030, and so, it is necessary for district authorities harbouring island and lakeside communities, such as Kwahu Afram Plains North and South in the Eastern Region, Krachi East and West in the Volta Region, Ada East in the Greater Accra Region and Sene East in the Bono Region, to develop plans for electrification of their remote areas which reflect the national mini-grid development blueprint of the government.

Already in the Kwahu Afram Plains North District, specific actions and measures on mini-grid planning and development have been incorporated into their Medium-Term Development Plan (MTDP), enabling the district to liaise with the government and development partners for increased support to their electrification needs.

Thus, communities in the district are expected to benefit from mini-grids from the government in the short-to-medium term.

Also, some 55 communities have been shortlisted for detailed site assessment and socio-economic impact study by the Ministry of Energy with funding from the African Development Bank.

Recommendation
The report suggested that to ensure accelerated growth in mini-grids, local authorities of districts harbouring island and lakeside communities which were not electrified must set targets on mini-grids and outline strategies for achieving them into their MTDPs.

Such strategies should reflect the national plan while making room for funding support from development partners and involvement of private mini-grid developers.

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