Solar a solution in sub-Saharan Africa, says UK minister

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Grant Shapps, the International Development Minister for the U.K. government, has told a delegation of African leaders at the UN General Assembly that solar PV’s capacity to transform the energy landscape of sub-Saharan Africa will be supported at every step by the U.K.

With solar panel costs falling, efficiencies increasing, and a thirst for reliable and affordable energy growing ever larger across many parts of Africa, Shapps said that the U.K. will take action to ensure a solar-powered transformation of household energy will remain a crucial issue on the global agenda.

"Governments, investors and aid agencies have the power to tear down regulatory barriers, attract new finance and ignite a solar revolution across Africa," Shapps said. "Britain will play a leading role in making this a reality. This is not only the right thing to do, it is also firmly in the U.K.’s own national interest as we create a more prosperous and safer world for us all."

The minister added that a lack of clean and reliable power has served to hold back social and economic development in many parts of Africa, but is of the opinion that solar power holds the key to unlocking the continent’s potential.

"The decreasing cost of solar panels, better and more efficient technology and the spread of simple mobile payment schemes give us a clear opportunity to solve this," Shapps told the attendant African leaders, investors and business executives at the General Assembly in New York. "I have seen for myself how solar energy can transform lives. People can continue their jobs or school work after the sun goes down, businesses can expand and families do not have to rely on kerosene or charcoal cookers, which fill houses with poisonous fumes."

The meeting took place in the wake of the Sustainable Development Summit, which included the adoption of the new Global Goals initiative, which outlines a strategy to ensure universal energy access to all by 2030.

Shapps’ message will accompany the minister at the first G20 Conference on Energy Access in sub-Saharan Africa in Istanbul on October 1. This pro-solar stance from the U.K. government is at odds with its posturing domestically, where the Conservatives have recently announced drastic cuts to the subsidy schemes – namely the FIT and the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) – that served to propel the U.K. solar industry to unprecedented heights last year, and so far in 2015.