Transcript: Climate Quickie: How mini-grids are making energy accessible in Sub-Saharan Africa
TEDxLondon Climate Curious
Mini-grids, or localised renewable energy systems, are increasing energy accessibility for people across Africa, says Tombo Banda, a clean energy access innovator. And with 500 million people still lacking access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, relying instead on highly polluting materials like diesel and firewood, this climate solution will create better lives for millions of people, quickly! Tombo Banda joins TEDxLondon’s Climate Curious to break down how many countries are successfully leapfrogging to green energy solutions.
In this week’s Climate Quickie live from TED’s Countdown Summit in Detroit, we’re joined by energy access innovator Tombo Banda to share her electrifying climate innovation. .
When electricity arrived in Zomba, Malawi in 1994, Tombo says it brought more health, more comfort and more happiness to her community.
So why are 500 million people still lacking access to the transformative power of electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, relying on highly polluting materials like diesel and firewood?
Tombo introduces us to her company’s mini-grids: localised renewable energy systems.
Making electricity more accessible — and creating better lives for millions of people.
Over to Tombo to explain more.
Hello, everyone. My name is Tombo Banda. I lead the mini grid innovation lab at Cross Boundary. I’m based in Nairobi, in Kenya.
So what’s the energy situation in Malawi? So I am originally Malawian, though I live in Kenya, and the energy situation in Malawi is quite dire. The most recent data shows that less than 15% of Malawians have access to electricity.
So yeah, 85% of the population still resorting to firewood, generators, whatever, nothing, kerosene, small solar lamps, um, to get by on their everyday.
So, firstly the traditional process of electrification is expensive and you know, many governments across the continent are dealing with many competing priorities and they don’t necessarily have the money to electrify their entire country. Um, so, Cost is is one of the biggest challenges. Um, and one of the least cost methods of electrifying Many populations many communities is mini grids. So they are localized standalone energy systems to power individual communities and they’re clean green and renewable So I work on making these more profitable as a way of getting the private sector to invest and therefore accelerate access to electricity across the continent
Electricity is more than an enabler. It’s, it’s transformative. We all take it for granted because we have it all the time.
Actually South Africa maybe recently is, is having the unfortunate experience of experiencing load shedding, which it never did. And actually in the UK, they also have load shedding now. Uh, you know the feeling when you don’t have electricity how debilitating and, uh, maybe even anxious it makes you.
Um, electricity is fundamental to your daily life, fundamental to business, fundamental to health, fundamental to education, you know, it’s a basic human right, I think. Um, and when you introduce electricity into a community, it transforms the community, as you would expect. You know, businesses, stay open for longer.
Businesses that use, um, diesel machinery switch to electric generate savings, um, and you know, experience health benefits. Um, so yeah, electricity, it’s just transformative
I think what gives me hope is, uh, People are starting to get it.
We still need to go faster. Um, but because, uh, you know, the scale of the challenge also presents an opportunity to manufacturers of batteries of solar panels of equipment of electric powered equipment and machinery. Recognizing that opportunity, I think, is spurring people into action.
So we’re seeing an acceleration in the rate of deployment in mini grids across the continent and other solutions that are more, um, appropriate for specific communities. Um, so I think what gives me hope is, that promise of the opportunity that this could bring to everyone.
Where can people find out more about our work? So our website is the best place to start. So crossboundary. com. And if you go to labs, you’ll find the innovation lab there. And we have a bunch of our research up on the website that people can digest.
My climate confession is that, um, my dirty secret is I love fashion. So I love shopping. And I have a lot of clothes that I don’t need. And I know it’s bad for the environment, but I keep doing it.