The momentum behind solar PVs potential to leapfrog the provision of grid electricity in Africa is continuing to build with the latest announcement seeing a major microfinance provider stepping into the space. Finca International President and CEO Rupert Scofield yesterday announced an initiative that will see 300,000 households be provided with solar microfinance solutions annually through to 2019.
"Access to energy is essential to help people live more comfortable lives and to become more productive," said FIncas Scofield. "Access to clean energy is even better. But the financing piece of this puzzle both for low-income consumers and off-grid energy providers is often a reason that markets don’t get going. He added that Fincas 30 years in microfinance and knowledge of the market will assist the company in rolling out the program.
Washington DC-based Finca owns or operates a number of microfinance institutions and has financed more than two million entrepreneurs and communities in 23 countries.
Finca made its announcement at the White House Forum on Catalyzing Markets for Off-Grid Clean Energy Access yesterday. The finance provider will support local entrepreneurs and social enterprises to rollout off-grid solar in Africa.
Participants in the White House Forum are set to sign the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnerships (Global LEAP) initiative aimed at ensuring off and micro-grid quality assurance.
Finca reports that the provision of solar systems and lanterns result in improved respiratory and eye health outcomes along with the societal benefits delivered by the provision of lighting for education and savings on energy costs. Expensive, polluting and unsafe kerosene lighting is still relied on by many offgrid communities, including some 200 million households in Africa.
A large number of innovative solar off-grid products are currently been rolled out in Africa and beyond. These include solar light and phone charging project Little Sun, spearheaded by prominent artist Olarfur Elliason, autonomous PV hub provider Solar Kiosk and recent First Solar acquisition Powerhive. The three companies were featured in the Off-grid, on message feature article in the October edition of pv magazine.