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Regional News of Friday, 31 October 2014

Source: GNA

Three Ghanaian companies win Power Africa energy awards

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Three Ghanaian companies have emerged winners in the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge sponsored by General Electric (GE), the U.S. Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The companies are, Solar Light Company Limited, Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture and New Energy. Each one of them received a grant of $100,000.

All three submitted entries for innovative energy solutions that can be deployed to power socio-economic activities within communities in Ghana that are not connected to the country’s national grid.

The Ghanaian companies joined 19 other grant winners from Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. Over 300 entries were received from across the continent.

A release from the Public Affairs section of the United States (U.S) Embassy in Accra signed by Mrs Joyce Asiedu and copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), explained that the Off-Grid Energy Challenge was part of Power Africa, President Obama’s initiative to increase access to reliable, affordable, clean and sustainable power in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Power Africa is also helping ensure responsible, transparent and effective management of energy resources in Sub-Saharan Africa. The three year initiative was launched in 2013 with 6 winners drawn from Kenya and Nigeria receiving $100,000 each, toward their renewable energy projects”, it stated.

On the award-winning companies, the release said Solar Light Company Limited planned to improve the livelihoods of Ghana’s informal street vendors, who often work for less than $3 a day for long hours in the sun. The company will be prototyping and locally manufacturing the “Sunana” system, a portable solar unit that street vendors can use to charge phones and provide lighting.

“Another winner, the Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture (KITA) is a Ghanaian NGO which serves as a leading center for research, technology transfer and education in farming, agriculture, agribusiness, and environmental resources management”, it said, adding that KITA was installing a 20-kilowatt biomass gasifier unit to use discarded biomass to power processing equipment that turns palm seeds into palm oil in an off-grid community in Ohwimase, in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

The third winner, NewEnergy is installing a solar-powered water pumping, filtration, and purification system, as well as a drip irrigation system, to be managed sustainably by a local water cooperative in the off-grid town of Nabogo in northern Ghana.

Speaking at the event, the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Gene Cretz, applauded GE and its partners - USADF and USAID - for taking on an active role in lighting Africa and in particular Ghana, through the Power Africa initiative.

The ambassador was pleased with the quality of the winning projects, referring to the projects as “innovative home-grown solutions for the local environment.”

He noted, “The Off-Grid challenge, like Power Africa, represents the best of what partnerships can accomplish, when we set our focus on a common goal.”

The CEO of GE Ghana, Mr. Leslie Nelson, expressed pleasure at the outcome of the event, saying that GE was very proud of the calibre of talent that emerged from Ghana in the competition.

“This further validates our belief at GE that the indigenous people on the ground have valuable insights on what works best for Africa and innovative solutions to meet the power needs of the continent.”

Mr.Robert Buzzard, manager of USAID/Ghana’s Energy program, noted that USAID, as a member of the Power Africa initiative, contributed $700,000 in support of the Off-Grid Challenge partnership.

“Much of USAID’s technical and financial support to the energy and power sectors in Ghana works on big-picture, upstream links in the chain of energy to power. For example, we’re helping the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum remove road blocks to the flow of natural gas flow from Ghana’s Jubilee field to power generation plants. The three projects we’re celebrating tonight add to that work and provide immediate impact on the lives of those not living on the grid”, he said.

Additionally, the President/CEO of the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF), Shari Berenbach said, “USADF is pleased to be supporting economic growth at the grassroots level, by addressing the energy poverty that many communities face. These grants represent the innovation and ‘can do’ attitude of Ghanaian renewable energy ventures that is spurring on growth across the country.”

Already the winners from the maiden edition of Off-Grid Challenge in Nigeria and Kenya have started impacting their respective communities with energy solutions. Green Village Electricity is providing solar powered energy to over 70 homes and hundreds of inhabitants of Egbeke community in Rivers state in the southern part of Nigeria, the release stated.

It said Mibawa, a winning company from Kenya, is also using the “Indigo” solar energy system to provide charging capability for two lights and cell phones for rural households in Eastern Kenya, and that the Indigo lighting system had now replaced the use of kerosene lamps in those communities.

It announced that the final round of the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge will take place in 2015.

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