Three Ghanaian companies have emerged winners in the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge, sponsored by General Electric (GE), United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The companies, which have each been awarded a grant of $ 100,000, are Solar Light Company Limited, Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture (KITA) and New Energy.
They submitted entries for innovative energy solutions that can be deployed to power socio-economic activities within communities in Ghana that are not connected to the national grid.
The Ghanaian companies joined 19 other grant winners from Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. Over 300 entries were received from across the continent.
Solar Light Company Ltd plans to improve the livelihood of Ghana’s informal street vendors, who often work for less than $ 3 a day for long hours in the sun.
The company would be prototyping and locally manufacturing the “Sunana” system, a portable solar unit that street vendors can use to charge mobile phones and provide lighting.
KITA is a Ghanaian non-governmental organization, which serves as a leading centre for research, technology transfer and education in farming, agriculture, agribusiness and environmental resources management.
KITA is installing a 20-kilowatt biomass gasifier unit to use discarded biomass to power processing of equipment that turns palm nuts into palm oil in an off-grid community in Ohwimase in the Ashanti Region.
For its part, New Energy is installing a solar-powered water pumping, filtration and purification system, as well as a drip irrigation system, to be managed sustainably by a local water cooperative in the off-grid town of Nabogo in the Northern Region.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency, a visibly elated Mr Mawuli Tse, Director of Solar Light Co Ltd, on behalf of his colleagues, expressed their gratitude to the benefactors for the honour done them.
The Off-Grid Energy Challenge is part of Power Africa, President Barack Obama’s initiative to increase access to reliable, affordable, clean and sustainable power in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Power Africa is also helping to ensure responsible, transparent and effective management of energy resources in Sub-Sahara Africa.
The three year initiative was launched in 2013 with six winners drawn from Kenya and Nigeria receiving $ 100,000 each, towards their renewable energy projects.
Mr Gene Cretz, US Ambassador to Ghana, in his address at the event, lauded GE and its partners – USADF and the USAID – for taking on an active role in lighting Africa and in particular Ghana, through the Power Africa initiative.
The Ambassador expressed happiness with the quality of the winning projects, calling the projects “innovative home-grown solutions for local environment”.
“Off-Grid Challenge, like Power Africa, represents the best of what partnerships can accomplish, when we set our focus on a common goal,” he said.
Mr Leslie Nelson, GE Ghana Chief Executive Officer, expressed pleasure at the outcome of the event, saying that GE was very proud of the calibre of talent that emerged from Ghana in the completion.
“This further validates our belief at GE that the indigenous people on the ground have valuable insights on what works best for Africa, and innovative solutions to meet the power needs of the continent,” he said.
Mr Robert Buzzard, Manager of USAID-Ghana’s Energy Programme, said USAID as member of the Power Africa initiative, contributed $ 700,000 in support of the Off-Grid Challenge partnership.
“Much of the USAID’s technical and financial support to the energy and power sectors in Ghana works on big-picture upstream links in the chain of energy power,” he stated.
He said the Agency was helping the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum remove road bottle networks to the flow of natural gas from Ghana’s jubilee oil fields to power generation plants.
“The three projects we are celebrating tonight add to that work and provide immediate impact on the lives of those not living on the grid,” Mr Buzzard stated.
Mr Christoph J. M. Anagbonu, speaking on behalf of the USADF’s President Shari Berencbach, said “USADF is pleased to be supporting economic growth at the grassroots level, by addressing the energy poverty that many communities face.”
“These grants represent the innovation and ’can do’ attitude of Ghanaian renewable energy ventures that is spurring on growth across the country.”
Already, the winners from the maiden edition of the Off-Grid Challenge in Nigeria and Kenya have started impacting their respective communities with energy solutions.
The final round of Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge would take place in 2015.