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Possibility to Solar Africa: The idea of solar shops and solar kiosks

One of the off-grid specialists, Phaesun GmbH provides households, small businesses and public institutions in Mozambique with solar energy. Tobias Zwirner, Managing Director of Phaesun, is a person in charge of the Mozambique project, and explains PV systems are one of the best solutions for rural electrification in Africa.

Reported by Stella Lee (pved1@infothe.com)

 

Sundaya Ulitium Solar System installed on the top of a school building in Pessene, Mozambique (Photo by Phaesun GmbH)

 

Tobias Zwirmer, Managing Dirctor, Phaesun GmbH 

 

Please give us an overview of the project you are launching in Mozambique.

Phaesun GmbH in Memmingen, Germany, provides households, small business enterprises and public institutions in Mozambique with solar energy. All in all, the 300,000-euro-project is going to last for two years. As a first step, Phaesun will establish a sustained trader network for the distribution of the Pico systems together with their project partner Coseba in Mozambique running training courses for 10 to 15 traders in the province of Sofala in the east of the country.

 

What do you think about PV potential in Mozambique and the rest of Africa?

The potential is very big in all over Africa. Just the distribution of high-class products with reasonable prices (such as the Sundaya Ulitium family) is very difficult and needs time and patience. Phaesun GmbH is on a good way to establish all over Africa such a good working dealer network with so-called solar shops and solar kiosks.

 

What kind of role do you think the solar shops and solar kiosks have to play in Mozambique?

The solar kiosks and solar shops are responsible for an area-wide supply. In addition to Ulitium Kits and spare parts, they also sell accessories, take care of the different financing options and recharge lamps against payment. Moreover, shopkeepers are responsible for the maintenance of the solar systems. This is an essential advantage compared with the most solar projects where people are equipped with PV systems, but have no contact person available nearby in case of problems. The solar kiosks and shops also generate jobs for the local population which in turn leads to additional confidence in the project and the related technology.

 

The 300,000 solar power project is going to last for two years. How are the investment costs covered?

50% of the investment costs are covered by the Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG).

The DEG and Phaesun share the project 50:50, which means Phaesun is investing 50% of the project by their own budget.

 

How do you plan to increase the broad effect of the project such as local education?

We cooperate closely with the Eduard Mondlane University and professor Boa Cuamba where students get lectures in photovoltaic, with the local ministries, the major NGOs and with our partner company Coseba where we train their engineers to be in future the trainers for the solar shop and solar kiosk owners.

 

Which are the main barriers and, conversely, the advantages on the way to solar Africa?

Low-quality products offered on the markets at very low prices are one of the main obstacles solar energy is confronted with in Africa. Due to their short life cycle and high failure rates, these products contribute to the fact that photovoltaics do not enjoy a good reputation there. High-quality products have a hard time becoming accepted on African markets since they are often simply too expensive. In addition, there are very high import duties which make the prices increase even further. Funding by means of installments and microcredits is also relatively complicated from the organizational point of view.

There are a lot of points that speak for solar energy in Africa: Some countries in Africa have very low electrification rates. Photovoltaics are mostly a substantially better alternative to the large-scale extension of the national grid. Particularly in rural areas, it is by far easier, quicker and more economic to realize electrification by means of PV than by an extension of the grid. Therefore, PV is the perfect source of energy for illumination, TV/Radio, cooling, etc. in many regions.

 

What do people in Africa think about PV projects? Do Africans recognize them well?

Solar power systems are more and more recognized and getting slowly more popular. PV systems are one of the best solutions for rural electrification since the power utilities cannot afford to bring the grid in very remote area and compared to the mobile phones which is high-class technology to become independent communication there is a logical way to use high-class solar Pico systems to become independency for the single households from long promised governmental plans in rural electrification.

 

What are Phaesun’s Innovative technologies or solutions you’re promoting?

If we’re talking about the solar Pico systems beside more complex solutions to power loads in off-grid areas, we are promoting the Sundaya Ulitium product family. Because there we see a high-class technology for achievable prices which give the possibility to improve the systems in households continuously to become the highest comfort in lighting, entertainment, telecommunication, ventilation, etc. with a sensitively developed product range where the easiest use for the end user is always at the center of all developments.

 

What would you like to advise someone who wants to launch a PV project in Africa?

We cannot give advises for PV projects in Africa! We are always listening carefully to our local partners and developing with them together the projects with their high knowledge of the domestic markets. Each country in Africa and their different provinces have totally different circumstances and demands.

 

What are your hopes for this work?

That there will be an understanding that waiting for a grid connection in remote areas is waste of time because reliable solutions to become immediate light, power for radio and TV or other appliances are from now on available. This will help immediately to improve the quality of life for the same amount of money which is currently spent for kerosene, batteries, candles, etc.!

 

Stella Lee is Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to pved1@infothe.com.

 

 

For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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