If asked to list the benefits of solar energy, what would they be? Access to reliable light sources? The ability to run technology and home appliances? Production of clean, renewable energy? Well, that's all true. But solar energy does far more than benefit.
While the world is working towards meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, these are the 17 UN goals, access to solar energy is one of the essential parts of the solution. It is an off-grid solar, and as they say a very powerful tool for change in terms of sustainable energy sources, but also of lifestyle and thinking in general.
One of the benefits is certainly SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth - calls on the world to 'promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all'. This will contribute especially to those parts of the world where economic growth is not high, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa. This program will be most important in rural communities without electricity.
Another importance of solar energy is its contribution to increasing employment. As Pover4All recently emphasised that the offline solar sector has become a significant employer in emerging economies with high unemployment. Despite its relative youth, it already employs about the same number as the electricity sector and predicts that by 2022-2023. The direct, formal, workforce could grow by 70% in Kenya alone, reaching 17,000 jobs in the country.
The benefits of solar energy do not end with the creation of useful jobs and employment opportunities, which is obvious. New research from the Global Off Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) shows that people living in rural areas are increasing their opportunities for rural entrepreneurship through access to solar energy finding that 34% of households report being more economically active, with 28% making an additional $46 per month on average. In more than one-third of households, customers report undertaking more work and enterprise due to their solar home system. Also, 21% of households with solar home systems report using the system in a business. A further 2% say household members are able to work more thanks to their solar home system.
In addition to several significant programs, and many others, solar energy, believe it or not, contributes to a program SDG5 that addresses gender equality. This gives women in rural areas the opportunity to undertake private entrepreneurship on an equal footing with men, as well as the opportunity to build profitable businesses. This means, above all, that thanks to solar energy, girls living in rural areas can be educated both at school and at home, the same as boys. New opportunities are opening up which will help bridge the gender gap in education. One example is this young woman Patience runs a small, local store in rural Uganda that provides her with income to look after her young family. Since getting solar energy, she has installed fridges, meaning she can sell cold drinks and refrigerated food to her customers, without the worry of high bills or power cuts. Since getting solar, Patience’s shop’s popularity has greatly increased and her customer numbers multiplied.
All these examples are an evidence that solar energy can be a great and incredible opportunity for Africa.