During my recent trip to South Africa, I spent some time with a friend who lives in Johannesburg. She just purchased a house and told me that she was looking forward to buying a solar water heater. She mentioned that the South African Government had recently announced that the price of electricity would increase by about 30% in the next year and, while a solar water heater was expensive in the short-run, in the long-run it would be both good for the environment and her bank account.
Using solar power can be prohibitively expensive for families or institutions struggling to make ends meet. However, the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) has been working in rural areas in South Africa to bring solar electricity to schools. SELF is also working in partnership with other organizations in Lesotho, Rwanda and Burundi to use solar power to provide electricity to rural healthcare facilities. Solar power is an invaluable investment – it provides a sustainable source of electricity (inconsistent power can be a crippling problem for places like hospitals that need their lifesaving machines to be on constantly, and generators are very expensive) and helps prevent environmental degradation by producing fewer pollutants.
Other organizations are hoping to harness the benefits of the sun too. The Clean Technology Fund at the World Bank is looking at implementing a concentrated solar power scale-up in the Middle East and North Africa. This project, if successful, could serve as a way forward for sub-Saharan Africa to use solar power on a large scale to provide electricity and fight climate change. As this December’s UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen gets closer, I think we’ll see more initiatives embracing solar power in Africa and the rest of the developing world.