Access to electricity is going to be more and more important.
Electricity is a form of energy. Everyone needs energy. It is essential to everything we do. We use it to light our homes, we use it to keep us warm, we use it to keep us cool. We use it to cook, we use it grow.
The dominant way in which we consume energy is by burning things. We burn oil and coal.
It used to be that we burned things to get light. First wood, then animal fat (whales were a popular source) then petroleum oil. Now many of us we use electricity and we don’t have to worry about the fumes, the poor light and the expense.
Without electricity you have to rely on kerosene lamps for lighting. They are 10 times more expensive than electric lighting provide poor light meaning you cannot study or work very well after dark and they produce a lot of indoor air pollution.
Electricity can do what oil can do and so much more. Electricity powers modern life. Without electricity we would not be able to call our grandmothers. We would not be able to call for help when we are in danger. Across the world, mobile phones have changed the way we communicate and nowhere more than Africa. Across the continent mobile phones are used by remote rural communities to access vital services such as market prices for the goods they produce, weather reports and emergency services. Mobile phones are also increasingly important in banking in rural areas and they have become one of the main ways people pay for things.
For people accessing electricity for the first time, these two uses of electricity, lighting and mobile phone charging, are the priority. New research carried out by the World Bank indicates that most people are happy with 4 hours of light at night and being able to charge one mobile phone a day. In Africa many people don’t have access to this most basic level.
In total 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to electricity. If we keep going as we have been 640 million people will still be without access to electricity by 2040.
So what do we do? Well the most powerful thing on the planet is the human mind. Get enough minds working on the problem and we can solve it.
At the moment there are nowhere near enough minds from Africa working on this problem. This is what we want to change.
At The Local Electricity Project our aim is to inspire, educate and support the next generation of energy innovators in Africa.
Innovators need two things. They need resources to build things and they need knowledge so they know how to use the resources they have around them.
We have designed a training programme that teaches students how to use local resources to build energy supplies. We will be implementing this programme in Zambia where only 5% of people living in rural areas have access to electricity.
We are calling this programme Energy Makers Zambia (or E<M>Z for short). Over the course of two weeks students will learn everything they need to know about generating, converting and storing electricity. Through this programme students will learn about the different sources used to generate electricity. They will learn how to convert this into a form they can use for lighting and mobile phone charging and they will learn how to store it using power banks.
Our programme centres around the Le1, an educational kit which can provide Tier 1 access to electricity.
We believe the best way for students to learn this is to build an electricity which they can use in their daily lives and provides them with useful electricity. This not only engages students but it also contributes to improving access to electricity.
Once students have engaged with the Le1, we will show them how they can use local resources to build it and support them to create completely new ways of generating, converting and storing electricity.
We will be running these classes with students from across the country but will be offering scholarships to women as well as those from rural areas.
Once students have completed our course they will have the skills to build electricity supplies tailored to their community’s specific needs, reducing cost and increasing its reliability.