In the midst of an energy crisis in South Africa; the private and public sector will need to open dialogue around off-grid energy solutions and policies that could help simplify the further roll out of micro-grid solutions, to provide access to electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.
“From a public private partnership perspective the key thing is the will from public sector to ensure that access to energy initiatives are being implemented in order to make meaningful changes in the lives of communities. This, coupled with making sure that the business models are implemented fully, will drive public and private sector collaboration in the energy sector,” says Taru Madangombe, Schneider Electric Energy Cluster VP for Anglophone Africa.
Madangombe says they are currently working on micro-grid offers based on Solar PV systems, as part of their containerised solutions for South Africa. These need to be transparent and clear enough for us to actively engage. Policy should allow for and encourage new ideas and innovations in terms of providing access to energy, which is why further conversation is needed between private and public sectors.
Madangombe adds this it is not just government that can play a role in expanding decentralised energy generation. He believes that with the funding model that is required for off-grid energy, other businesses and even financial institutions can get involved in these projects, “Our mission should not just be one of providing power, but also expanding economic opportunity.”
The benefits of expanding off-grid energy solutions and bridging the gap to provide power to people are far reaching. One example of how unlocking the energy sector can uplift the country’s economic sector is the installation done in the rural village of Gwakwani in Limpopo.
Through an economic empowerment project in Gwakwani, Schneider Electric, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg, has provided the community with access to energy and education solutions in order to promote economic development and social upliftment in the village. An energy supply through solar modules provides power to a containerised crèche and bakery. With the first television set in the history of the village, the youngest in the community are now exposed to educational channels. The bakery not only supplies the villagers’ needs, but has provided a successful business opportunity providing employment in the area. Solar home and area lighting, as well as a water pump solution and drip irrigation are other initiatives successfully implemented in Gwakwani with substantial social impact.
Schneider Electric last year received the award for excellence for the Best Corporate Social Responsibility Programme of the Year during the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa’s (SEIFSA) Awards for Excellence ceremony. This speaks to the benefit of ongoing partnerships between academic institutions, NGOs, NPOs and other corporates for economic development. In this instance between Schneider Electric and with the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science (Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment).
“Setting up various micro off-grid systems is a quick way to bridge the gap between remote rural areas that don’t have access to electricity and to support them in a way that enables them to be self-sustainable. We believe that private public collaborations are a feasible and sustainable way of expanding such off-grid solutions,” concludes Madangombe.