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Can solar home systems make difference in south Sudan households? by Ater Amogpai-Aalto University school of science and Technology Finland, Helsinki
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Aug 13, 2010 - 8:42:40 PM

Can solar home systems make difference in south Sudan households?

Today, every ninth southern Sudanese is without access to electricity and this makes south Sudan either rural or remote region with no access to modern energy. Because of its direct socio-economic and environmental benefits, the access to modern energy for cooking, lighting and ICT seems to becoming a social, political and economic priority to southern Sudanese households and policy makers. In addition to its indirect benefits, modern energy should be considered an important factor to growth in the south Sudan as well. Instead of recognition of this fact, progress remains slow as government of south Sudan and the private sectors lack funds for the substantial investments needed for electrification. Further, household budgets are often too small to pay full cost recovering connection fees and tariffs.

 

Grid connected in south Sudan is a long term project and plan, as pre-electrify, diesel generators are the most widely spread off-grid technology today. And it will remain the source for micro-enterprises that need AC power for their production processes in the decades to come. Electricity generated by these generators is always used to power lights, TVs, radios and the cell phones. Car batteries are sometimes used to power these equipments as well in southern Sudanese households and small businesses. However, increasing fuel prices and environmental concerns of using diesel generators make renewable energy powered alternatives increasingly attractive.

 

Due to the highly specific nature of all other renewable energy power sources in south Sudan, solar powered off-grid are the only economically viable options for all dispersed users in south Sudan. Yet, currently available solar technology solutions for household level use for the least developed region like south Sudan – the so called solar home systems – are not going to be affordable for the vast majority of its population. And it is not expected to change in the next decade. In case of south Sudan the market for the solar home systems is not yet available on the retail side and it does require expensive logistics. For example, in the north part of Sudan the retail price of a typical 50Wp to 75Wp solar home system is ranging from 900 SDG to 1350 SDG with installation costs included the prices ranging from 2000 SDG to 3000 SDG. So far, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are doing well in solar home systems business and both countries are closer to south Sudan than its northern part.

 

The government of south Sudan therefore should subsidise or support solar home systems enterprises to close the gap between costs and current energy expenditures. And this should be based on grounds of welfare gain, market inefficient or unavailability. Such access subsidies-if designed properly –can, on one hand, have a surprisingly strong impact on poverty. On the other hand, they can lead to massive misallocations qua price distributions and have often wrecked havoc among existing local small and medium sized enterprises active in the off-grid market. Yet, even if funding for massive subsidies for grid and off-grid scale –up were available from taxes, sector lives or official development assistance, vast majorities of today’s southern Sudanese poor would remain without access for next two decades.

 

 You can reach me at Email: [email protected], Helsinki, Finland

 

 



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