To be able to embrace the benefits provided
by the development of better access to rural electricity,
water support and telecommunications, the end user needs
to be able to receive and utilize these products.
Working from the end user perspective,
StonePower promotes the building of a basic infrastructure
within society to help introduce electricity, telecommunications
etc. to the rural population. The focus is set on stand-alone,
small sized and self-supporting solutions involving local
participants, resources and workforce.
The store of new technological and organizational
solutions to the sustainable rural electrification challenge
is now large and growing. StonePower’s vision is to
encourage new rural electrification programs to take advantage
of these new, low-cost and more appropriate solutions.
These solutions range from grids, mini-
and micro-grids to individual sized systems for electricity,
to local telecommunication systems covering remote areas
away from the main networks and efficient biological
water treatment facilities.
Reasearch and Development
Sustainable Rural Development
In Africa, as in all regions, people living in rural areas
make up the poorest part of the population. The disparity
in income between urban centers and rural areas is greatly
aggravated by much poorer access to vital services. Moreover,
in countries where government resources are in any case
limited, rural populations usually have less power than
their urban counterparts to command development funds
— geographical remoteness and economic backwardness all
too often translate into social and political exclusion.
In many Sub-Saharan African countries, access to electricity
is extremely low, and concentrated geographically (to
urban areas and even there, to the central parts of main
cities) and among the very top of the income classes.
Non-served or poorly served consumers are instead forced
to resort to higher-cost alternatives (private gensets,
batteries, kerosene), and the lack of access or poor reliability
limits the productive potential and quality of life.
The key problem is to find "workable entry points" for
change in a selective, targeted manner to catalyze rapid
scale-up of alternative approaches.
In the past, most rural electrification programs were
initiated, financed, and managed by the government or
the utility. These programs have not been a success. Today,
only around 2% of the rural population of sub-Saharan
Africa have access to electricity, and without a major
overhaul of rural electrification efforts, this percentage
is going to get worse — not better — as rural population
growth continues to outstrip the expansion of electricity
access by some way.
The main (often the sole) traditional approach to extending
electricity access has failed to even keep up with population
growth, and is unlikely to make any significant expansion
of access in the foreseeable future. This approach includes
central monopolies extending the main grid at great and
often unnecessary cost across sparsely populated areas,
with large subsidies and cross-subsidies across regions
and customer classes.