59.3 Diffusion of solar solution in developing countries focus group study in Ghana

Emmanuel Ndzibah , Industrial Management, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland
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  • The role of renewable energy has gained much attention in modern trend of reversing the global energy crisis especially in developing countries. Renewable energy systems are methods of harnessing energy for human consumption in a way that the source of such energy is not depleted over time as compared to fossil fuel which is currently being threatened due to insatiable global consumption patterns (IEA, 2002). While the ‘greenness’ of renewable energy plays a major role in developed countries making it a preferred choice, it is quite unclear if developing countries resort to renewable energy for the same purpose.

    A study on the energy system in Ghana shows that many would prefer an alternative source of energy in Ghana. These specific problems and many more have created serious energy crisis resulting in decades of high incidents of unauthorized and frequent power outages as well as regulated load shedding exercises (the rationing of electricity by geographic location, consumption capacity and density lasting between 12 – 48 hours). This particular phenomenon amongst other factors in turn has lead to high incidences of low productivity, low development and slow growth of the country’s economy (Dovi, 2007 and Mensah-Biney, 2007). This nature of power rationing has lead to many industries; commercial and domestic consumers opt for secondary sources of power like generators which comes with its own problem like environmental pollution and high cost of fuel.

    There is the need for increase in the energy capacity of developing economies. For instance in Ghana, the Ministry of Energy explained in the Policy Framework and Guide for Development of Independent Power Producer that the demand for energy in Ghana has increased in the past 10 years to about 5% per year representing capacity addition requirements of about 50MW – 100MW per annum. Since 2006 there has been promises from the government on measures they intend to put in place to alleviate the energy crisis (New Africa, 2007).

    Meanwhile, solar solution as an alternative source of energy was hardly identified as viable option due to lack of adequate information and knowledge.  A focus group study points out that the rate of awareness of solar energy among Ghanaians is very low. It was observed also that, the public seems to hardly understand the real components that make up a complete solar-solution which include: panels, charge controllers, battery and in some case inverters. It was established further in the study that, solar panels are also perceived to be monstrous and bulky making potential customers wonder if their properties would not be defaced.

    Results from the focus group session of sampled respondents selected from different regions of Ghana revealed that many consider solar energy as best alternative due to the degree of awareness created during the interviewing session.  However; the problem was identified to be a matter of accessibility and financing.  For those who claimed that they could afford, it was a matter of ‘accessibility’ of the solar products on the market. This raises the need for further study in ascertaining the right segments for the diffusion of solar solution. Identified segments include: standalone (the solely use of renewable energy solution, especially for people without access to any form of conventional energy), backup (the use of renewable energy solution in case of a black or brown out) or a hybrid system (where specific household or corporate systems could be connected to a renewable energy system).  Findings however, point out that this system would be of help to both industries and domestic use (Aitken 2003:33, 35),

    Meanwhile, an attempt to establish the financing options available to users pointed out that, financing as a problem was insignificant. The main problem lies in having a viable economic framework from which financial institutions will design a realistic pay-back time. Existing financial structure identified in Ghana includes:  individual and corporate loan systems for investments, like cars, housing and start-up businesses. This system makes it possible for financing of alternative solar solutions.

     Various forms of education to be used include: seminars, workshops, posters, televised demonstrations, radio and phone-in programs, classroom lectures amongst others. However, it was further established that amongst others, this study is a first attempt in educating and repositioning solar solutions to Ghanaians as a means of attaining an economic sustainability, development and growth (Holm 2005:13).

    Keywords: renewable energy, greenness, financing, accessibility, developing countries, Ghana.

    References:

    Aitken W. Donald (2003). Transitioning to a Renewable Energy Future. ISES (International Solar Energy Society) [online] [cited May 18, 2006].  Available: http://www.ises.org/shortcut.nsf/to/wp

    Dovi, E. (2007). Africa’s major aluminum producer closes amid Ghana energy crisis.  [online] available at: www.voanews.com/english/archive/2007-03/2007-03-16-voa47.cfm (accessed  31 January, 2009).

    Holm Dieter (2005). Renewable Energy Future for the Developing World. ISES (International Solar Energy Society) [online] [cited May 18, 2006]. Available: http://www.ises.org/shortcut.nsf/to/wp99

    IEA (2002). Renewable energy, into the mainstream, The Novem Sittard, The Netherlands, 2002.

    Mensah-Biney, R. (2007). Reflecting on the power/energy crisis in Ghana [online] available at: www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=127315 (accessed 31 January, 2009).

    New Africa (2007). Ghana: How the power shortage is being fought [online] available at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5391/is_200710/ai_n21296867