The boom in off-grid photovoltaic systems in developing countries

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In the past, limited and uncertain access to electricity in developing countries, particularly in Africa, was a handicap that hindered their economic and political development.

But new energy technologies now make it possible to generate off-grid electricity almost autonomously. All that’s needed is a photovoltaic panel and an eight-Watt battery. These components are often provided in a kit, along with two lightbulbs, a radio, a telephone charger and a flashlight for about EUR 200. Falling prices of various components have made such kits far more affordable. Thanks to funding from microcredit organisations, programmes to distribute kits to local populations in Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, are expanding. They are a superior alternative to polluting, noisy and ultimately expensive kerosene-run units, with one kit costs only the equivalent of a year’s-worth of kerosene.

Will such initiatives remain the province of a chosen few or will they become common practice in countries with high population growth and no energy generation infrastructures? Only time will tell, but current developments in these countries may point to a major structural change in energy generation and use. Will light, easy-to-install and inexpensive energy generation systems supplant enormous, often high-tech centralised production systems that were the norm last century?

BNP Paribas Asset Management’ environmental fund managers keep a close track of trends in these developing countries and actively seek out renewable energy companies that are able to benefit from the coming changes.

Published on 5 April 2017

Alexandre Jeanblanc

Investment Specialist, SRI

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