The Advisor of Botswana Green Energy Consortium in Botswana, Robert Hana says the Off Grid LED project which is a brain child of a Motswana woman, Eunice Ntobedzi is gaining momentum and is continuing to spark interest from international investors. He says the project could help mitigate the electricity challenges that are currently be-devilling the country.
The Off Grid LED lighting project is a modern day solar power lighting product using existing robust technologies, with low maintenance and operational cost. Dubbed “Seeing is believing” the project was initiated by Ntobedzi early this year and it is supported by the Botswana Green Energy Consortium. She came up with the idea to try and help disadvantaged communities’ access lights.
In an interview with Sunday Standard last week, Hana who is also spearheading the project said it has already sparked interest from a number of investors abroad among them, Craig Morgan, the Managing Director of Videre Global, an international company based in the United Kingdom (UK) which designs, builds and supplies specialist equipment for off grid energy production in the renewable sector. Its projects typically include the design manufacture and supply of bespoke solar systems, including solar farms, renewable energy storage, LED Street lighting and Solar Street lighting, powered accessories and energy access solutions for underserved energy markets. The company’s major mandate is to address challenges faced by at least 1.5 billion people across the world that live without access to electricity.
“Craig Morgan first read about this project on twitter and was inspired to support it. Craig made contact with Ntobedzi and her pictures and arranged to visit Botswana. Following a series of meetings it was agreed that Videre Global could provide technical support to bring the project to life,” he said.
Ntobedzi was also nominated early this year by a team from the USA Innovation leaders in San Francisco for the GIST Innovation competition for her mobile development energy application “EmPowered” She is currently studying in the United Kingdom (UK) after receiving a UK Chevening Scholarship to complete her Masters at the University of Glasgow in Scotland where she is also further developing her “Renewable Energy Business Model.”
Hana said after months of collaborative work and research involving other partners in the consortium, a proto-type Solar LED Light was developed and tested, using “State of the Art” internationally approved and proven technologies.
He explained that the Solar LED light has durable microprocessors that control functionality and energy saving systems. He also revealed that five villages in Botswana have since benefited from the proto-type LED Solar Lights already and added that the initiative has tremendous support from the Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Philip Makgalemele. The villages that have benefited hitherto, he said are Tobela, Ikongwe, Poloka, Moralane and Shoshong.
“We also have the Francistown Smart City Lighting project which aims to get all current and future lighting in the second city off the grid. This will save 23 percent of the city’s electrical energy costs helping Botswana meet its new climate mitigation targets saving considerable repair and maintenance cost. We are partnering with the Francistown City Council (FCC) and they are very supportive of the idea,” added Hana.
He also said that other projects are just about to be implemented in the Kweneng District Council, North West region and other areas of the country. He said a range of eight community lighting products have now been developed and designed for a range of different situations. He also said commercial examples of use being promoted are an 8W light for the “Cattle Posts” up to an 80w unit to provide lighting solutions for urban road use.
“The project has the support of the United Kingdom (DTI) Fund who have pledged to support inject over P420 million in helping distribute off-grid lighting to other areas in Botswana. We are currently awaiting interest from local authorities to approve the project and give us the green light,” he said.
The objective of the United Kingdom (UK) DTI Fund is to promote trade and development in the UK and developing countries.
Hana also revealed that plans are underway to establish a solar light manufacturing plant and a solar power generating plant in Francistown. He said the Francistown local authorities have keen interest in the project through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. He said if things go according to plan such major projects will also help alleviate unemployment and reduce over-dependency on the national electricity grid for street lighting.
“We have a number of investors who are showing keen interest to invest atleast $US 100 million into the projects. We want these projects to benefit Batswana more so that the idea was hatched by a citizen of Botswana. We do not want to see the project going to other countries because a number of countries such as South Africa and Mauritius have also shown interest on the project to be relocated there. What is however pleasing to is that the mayoress of Francistown, Sylvia Muzila has shown interest in the projects,” he said.
Hana also said that the introduction of the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) programme by government came at the right time as it can help propel this project and create high value, skilled jobs supporting the manufacture of Solar Lighting systems and exporting them to other areas within the SADC region.
“This innovation can help diversify the economy as it has a huge potential export market,” he said in conclusion.
Robert Hana is also the Coordinator of the Sanitation Water and People (SWAP) Trust an organization which is mandated with helping communities in Botswana access water, sanitation and sustainable energy.