This is a lay summary of the article published under the DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-93438-9_8
National electricity data in Lesotho shows that many people in rural areas find it cheaper to burn wood for fuel rather than use electricity, which is expensive to generate and distribute around the country’s famous mountain range. Researchers say that introducing renewable energy sources, like solar power, could make electricity more affordable.
In rural Lesotho, many households either lack electricity or use very little electricity, even where it is available. Through the years, various government initiatives, and efforts to promote use by electricity companies, have also largely been unsuccessful.
Researchers therefore wanted to understand the challenges that prevent people in rural Lesotho from using electricity.
They looked at electricity usage data from the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC), the government’s Rural Electrification Unit (REU), and Lesotho’s Bureau of Statistics (BoS). They wanted to find out how electricity use changed through the years and what energy sources people were using instead.
Researchers said the LEC data showed that average household electricity consumption decreased by 60% between 2001 and 2016. Surprisingly, this decrease happened even though the Lesotho Electricity Company had gained nearly 10 times more customers during that time.
Their analysis showed people often still prefer to use traditional fuels, like wood, because they are cheaper. Other challenges were the difficulty of building power grid infrastructure in the Lesotho mountains, and the need for better government policies around affordable electricity.
To address some of these issues, the researchers suggested using renewable energy sources, like solar power. They stated that by installing renewable technologies, instead of traditional electric power, electricity and maintenance costs would be lower. This may encourage people to use electricity instead of traditional fuels, they said.
The researchers said future studies should focus on how best to provide electricity connections in rural areas, and should identify other reasons why rural people still prefer traditional energy sources.
This study was conducted by a team of scientists from Lesotho and forms part of the 2018 Africa-EU Renewable Energy Research and Innovation Symposium.
Despite serious efforts of the Lesotho Government, Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) and other stakeholders, the level of rural household electrification and affordability are still low. Whereas in 2015 about 72% of urban households were grid-connected, this was only true for 5.5% of rural households. Furthermore, the vast majority of rural households use fuel wood, while electricity use, where available, represents a small share of the domestic energy consumption. The LEC data shows that the average consumption per household has decreased by over 60% between 2001 and 2016 in urban households. This indicates that the bulk of new connections are to the rural poor households. This is plausible given that majority of households perceive electricity and other commercial sources of energy to be more expensive than the traditional biomass. Therefore, the paper discusses this existing status quo with regard to rural electrification using data from the major players such as LEC, Rural Electrification Unit and Bureau of Statistics.
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