Readers would bear with me that, electricity rates in west African Sub-regions, precisely Ghana are so exorbitant that, average person
cannot afford to patronize. It’s upon this trends that prompted Mr Freelove John Mensah, CEO of Sunrise Solar Solutions Ltd based in Tema and also a member of Alliance for Rural Electrification to have come out with such a brilliant initiative to establish an ingenious company to champion the course of reducing this energy poverty .
Find herewith the full interview coverage conducted by Solar Newsletter, a periodic magazine of the Alliance for Rural Electrification during a 3-day workshop organized in Accra early November, 2011, at British council auditorium.
Can you please introduce us to Sunrise Solar Solutions Limited and the main objectives of your company?
Sunrise Solar Solutions Limited is a new and innovative company established to make a significant impact on the energy platform in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa.
We are wholesalers of renewable energy products (solar/wind), supply and install solar/wind power systems, offer services for commercial, residential, and public sector buildings. We also provide full in-house training and technical support and supply leading technology products, and provide a full installation service.
Sunrise Solar Solutions Limited’s main objectives are:
Deliver timely, cost effective and high quality professional service to our customers;
Minimise the environmental impacts of conventional energy by using Solar (PV) and Wind power as energy source that produces zero carbon emission so to save the planet Earth;
Strengthen energy security and eradicate energy poverty in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa leading to rapid economic development.
You are one of the pioneers in the Ghanaian solar sector. What are the main challenges you have faced in this industry, and how have you managed to overcome them?
The main challenges are:
High system prices;
Limited purchasing power of the people;
Government not giving support to renewable energy; high import duties; high interest on bank loans and financing difficulties;
Corruption, limited legal framework and poor quality of imported Chinese products;
Lack of qualified and skilled professionals working with renewable energy technologies;
Perceptions, misunderstandings and vested interests that produce mental barriers around renewable energy technologies.
In the words of Hermann Scheer (of blessed memory), German Politician and Environmentalist:
“There are many resistances against this technology, many misunderstandings and many mental barriers. And if we want to look to a breakthrough we have to look to the real vested interests and to the existing mental barriers.”
The challenges are progressively being addressed. Despite an inexhaustible amount of sunshine in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa, the progress in the use of photovoltaic technology is still at a snail’s pace. Ghana currently has no renewable energy Act; however, there appears to be a gradual change on the way.
We are campaigning to create the awareness and educate on the benefits that exist for alternative energy, for example, solar and wind energy, so as to harness public support. Hopefully, with the public support we can positively affect the government policy on renewable energy.
Sunrise Solar Solutions has been involved in both wind and solar energy projects. What are the main benefits of these two technologies particularly in Ghana and the wider region, and what role do they play in meeting the rural electrification and access to clean energy challenges in these countries?
There is a long list of benefits offered by solar and wind energy. For one, these technologies offer quality, durability and reliability. By relying on solar and wind energy for our energy needs, we know that we are not polluting the environment.
In rural areas, the two technologies provide energy source for sustained economic activities, security and health, leading to eradication of energy poverty and resulting in economic prosperity. However, access to clean energy is hampered by lack of funding in these countries.
In Ghana we have high solar irradiation, say, between 1,800 to 3,000 hours of annual sunshine. As such, currently we are only promoting solar technology because of the lack of professional wind energy installers.
Sunrise Solar Solutions wishes to introduce wind technology into Ghana on a commercial basis, by creating a hybrid wind and solar (PV) technology project.
Ghana also has a reasonable wind speed all over the country. In rural areas where there is a serious issue of security and limited installation space, we give preference to wind technology. Therefore in rural electrification, both technologies complement each another as and when appropriate.
Besides providing technologies and practical solar applications, you also deal with education and training on energy management. How important is the role of such training and which are the main target groups you are addressing so far?
Energy costs money, it is therefore essential for energy users to know how to manage energy usage effectively so as to save money. Therefore the objective of training is to equip the user with energy-management knowledge and tools in order to maximise returns on energy usage.
The main target groups are estate developers, architects and individuals house owners.
You are planning to open the first large scale solar farm in Ghana. Could you tell us a bit more about this project, main outcomes and expected impact in the Ghanaian energy sector and the overall development?
This project is one of the steps towards bringing into being our vision of eradicating energy poverty.
In Ghana we have only one electricity distributor, that is, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), therefore electricity users have no choice and there is no competition, it is a monopoly situation. Having our own energy source will stabilize and guarantee electricity price in Ghana.
The expected impact will be the transformation, stable power supply and accountability in the electricity market, and users will have the right to make a choice.
Our Vision is to “eliminate dependency on fossil fuel and end energy poverty; we will pioneer the use of solar / wind energy as the midstream power source.”
Are there any other interesting projects you are currently involved in?
Sweden Ghana Medical Centre (SGMC):
This is a Sweden-Ghana government project in East Legon, Accra, Ghana to establish a cancer treatment hospital. However, due to the lack of funding, the project is currently stalled. Any contribution towards this project will be highly appreciated.
Sukladzi Agbozume, Ghana:
Rural Solar Electrification project for 70 households (500wh/d per household) needs funding; support from members will be welcome.
Kpedza Agbozume, Ghana:
Rural Solar Electrification project for 60 households.
2012 is the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Are you planning any specific activities? Do you know of other noteworthy actions in the solar sector to be carried out in Ghana in line with this initiative?
Sunrise Solar Solutions Limited will mark the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All by commissioning 2 large scale farms in Ghana.
We also wish to hold an exhibition and expand the campaign on awareness for sustainability.
We would appreciate and welcome any ARE member wishing to sponsor and participate in this event in Ghana.
Unfortunately, we are not yet aware of any Government programme.
What key lessons learned from your activities up to now would you like to share with the readers of the Newsletter?
Slow bureaucratic response to proposals due to ignorant inertia and corruption;
The establishment not willing to act or change.
Report By: Chris Mensah Dekportor.