Sub-Saharan Africa’s lack of electricity is hindering development but this can be reversed if countries turn to ambitious, large-scale renewable energy projects, an environmental think tank suggests.

The region – home to 41% of the world’s energy-poor people, with 65% of primary schools and 30% of health centres having no access to electricity – faces an energy crisis that development models are not addressing, according to a report by the Green Alliance.

“Even with robust economic growth, [the region’s] existing energy infrastructure is a brake on progress. With population growth continuing to outstrip electrification, the number of people without energy access is only projected to grow,” say the authors. “This has significant implications for development, with impacts on health, education and household economy. Disproportionate amounts of time and income are spent securing energy by other means, such as gathering wood, which also has detrimental impacts on the natural environment.

“Low carbon, decentralised energy can reach communities much faster than expanding existing, inefficient central grid systems. And it offers immediate improvements to people’s lives. Projections for achieving universal energy access in sub-Saharan Africa acknowledge this potential and assume that just over half the provision will need to be mini and off-grid solutions. Such options will also be more resilient in the face of climate changes.”

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