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18/05/2020 News

Energy Access during the Covid-19 pandemic (1/2)

Photo: World Bank / Sambrian Mbaabu
Photo: World Bank / Sambrian Mbaabu

While COVID-19 continues to spread, causing unprecedented disruptions around the world, governments have sprung into action and set up lockdown and stay-at-home measures. As a result, billions of people are heavily relying on electricity while confined to their homes.

Although these measures are necessary to slow down the pandemic, around 800 million people – mainly in sub-Saharan Africa – live without access to electricity and hundreds of millions more with very limited or unreliable access to electricity. For many of them, preventive measures are challenging to apply, because of the lack of access to energy and clean water. Energy is needed for lighting, cooking or storing food, and the most vulnerable communities may not be able to access to these essential services.

We must act now to maintain our efforts in providing access to life-sustaining energy for those who need it most, to help contain the virus and avoid further escalation of the situation.

When asked about the importance of energy access solutions during the Covid-19 pandemic, a representative of Total Kenya considers that the population needs an “important back-up energy in case of disruption in services such as electricity” more specifically in “supporting essential services such as education, health, security patrols…”.

More specifically for the health sector, unfettered access to reliable electricity is crucial in order to ensure the treatment of patients. Thereafter, when treatments will be available, an uninterrupted and reliable cold chain will be needed to ensure that the vaccines will reach rural and vulnerable populations.

According to Dysmus Kisilu, CEO of Solar Freeze, a partner of TATES providing solar powered cold storage units, the distribution of energy access products is more important than ever as “rural and refugee clinics have been able to get a much needed lifeline for the storage of crucial vaccines and medication that would have otherwise not have been available in remote locations”.

As this pandemic highlights the importance of access to energy, it is also a major impediment to achieving it. The biggest challenges this pandemic poses are the disruption caused in the supply chain as well as the reduced disposable income of base of the pyramid population. Moreover, according to GOGLA, the lockdown measures implemented worldwide are “interrupting operations of sales agents, disrupting new sales and after-sales support”.

For companies in the sector to stay afloat, GOGLA is “advocating for off-grid solar to be recognized as an essential service”. Their efforts have paid off as our partner Solar Freeze, operating in Kenya, was “able to get government permits and extra volunteers to help Solar Freeze during this critical time of Covid-19”. We therefore welcome the efforts made by GOGLA and other companies to ensure continuity in the distribution of solar off-grid products during lockdown.