By: Faisal Mustafa, mechanical engineer, The University of Khartoum, Sudan & graduate of the Clean Energy 4 Africa Volunteers Program 2020.
Since 2003, Darfur has been suffering from a long outstanding conflict running between many parties and the past government which has led to drought, livestock losses, migration, and severe environmental degradation. Some main reasons for this war were attributed to resources such as land, clean water, and food. With its 5 states (North, South, East, West, and Central Darfur), the Darfur region is estimated to have a population of approximately 8.7 million with access to energy mostly through thermal power plants (less than 90 MW). Though solar energy was introduced recently, no much progress was achieved.
The “Darfur Solar Electrification Project” was implemented based on the outcomes of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur signed in 2011 between the Government of Sudan and the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA). It was suggested by the Darfur Joint Assessment Mission (DJAM) in 2012 as part of the recovery and reconstruction plan for the community to promote access to clean energy services in Darfur. The organizations and parties contributing to this project are: UN agencies (UNDP, UNIDO, WHO, and UNHABITAT), Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity (MWRE), National Energy Research Center (NERC), and the DRA. The total budget of the project was estimated at $5.7 million shared between UNDP (95%) and UNIDO (5%) (Darfur Solar Electrification Project, 2016).
The project has 4 main outputs as shown in Figure 1. These outputs are: installing different solar systems in 70 villages, providing technical knowledge, initiating micro-financing policies and loans, and lastly raising public awareness.
Table 1 below shows the types and numbers of systems to be installed in each state. Although the southern and northern states have the largest population (more than 5 million population combined), these systems were distributed equally between the 5 states. Estimates show that the direct and indirect beneficiaries are approximately between 35,000 and 15,000 respectively.
|Statistics on the villages addressed by the project|
|Total number of villages||70|
|Total number of schools||140|
|Total number of health centers||70|
|Total number of police stations||70|
|Total number of women development centers||70|
|Statistics on the type and number of installed solar PV systems|
|Number of PV lanterns||7000|
|Number of solar street lights||700|
|Number of solar pumps||70|
|Total number of systems installed||8120|
Challenges & Recommendations:
Based on experience from past projects, the program is expected to face some difficulties and constraints such as markets lacking spare parts (inverters, batteries, etc..), shortage in skilled workers, systems safety (some parts were stolen before), and transportation difficulties. Also, one possible challenge is the collection of accurate and sound data regarding displaced and resident people. Additionally, the Darfur Regional Authority (responsible for coordination and cooperation among the States of Darfur) was dissolved in 2016, which might have affected the process.
In order to ensure the sustainability of this project after its completion, several factors are needed such as:
- Encouraging private sector participation.
- Developing technical knowledge on solar PV systems in the region.
- Ensuring safety in the site-selection process (to prevent equipment theft).
Management & Coordination:
Management decisions and coordination process during this project are achieved through a project board in which all stakeholders are represented by a role or more (see Figure 2 ).
The total budget of this project was estimated at $5,638,900 in which the biggest share was allocated for output 1 (installing solar systems). From the figure below, it can be seen that less than 10% of the budget was allocated for the remaining outputs combined on which the sustainability of the project is heavily dependent.
A solar training manual was published by the UNIDO as one of the outputs of the project. It is dedicated to technicians and it is quite informative, simple, and it doesn’t require much previous knowledge. However, the manual needs to focus more on the safety issue, the possible hazards, and personal protective equipment. Other training opportunities can be offered in engineering, marketing, and finance to help in the long-term goals.
In order to ensure that students can learn updated techniques and information on solar PV systems, the training manual must be checked, revised, and edited based on quality assurance and quality improvement models such as PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act).
Socio-economic impacts represent one of the vital steps to be addressed in the early steps of the project. Reliable information on the expected outcomes of the project in terms of the environment, welfare, and employment constitutes a key factor for project developers and other stakeholders in the decision-making process.
This project offers a great opportunity for sustainable development in the Darfur region. Improving access to energy and diversifying the livelihood opportunities for internally displaced people (IDPs) will definitely mitigate the tension and consequences of the war.
Some of the expected socio-economic impacts are numbers of temporary and permanent jobs during the implementation process such as planning, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning process. Moreover, vacancies for teachers, nurses, and other community services may be opened.
Reducing pollution and CO2 emissions are expected due to the expected decrease in using wood fuel. Also, many health centers will be rehabilitated or constructed which will increase the efficiency of health care system. These impacts will eventually boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Darfur and Sudan in general. In Figure 4 below, selected experiences are shown for the socioeconomic impacts of renewable energy systems in developing countries (IRENA, 2015; Saied, 2020).
There are several famous online models used for accurately measuring these impacts such as JEDI and E3ME. However, they require a certain degree of reliable data to be used. Thus, for measuring the socio-economic impacts related to this project, one reliable method that fits the situation is conducting surveys for all the stakeholders and project beneficiaries (IRENA, 2014).
About the author:
- Darfur Solar Electrification Project (Issue February). (2016). http://mptf.undp.org/document/download/15872
- IRENA. (2014). The Socio-economic Benefits of Solar and Wind Energy. May. https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2014/Socioeconomic_benefits_solar_wind.pdf
- IRENA. (2015). Renewable energy benefits : understanding the socio-economics. 1–16. https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2017/Nov/IRENA_Understanding_Socio_Economics_2017.pdf?la=en&hash=C430B7EF772BA0E631190A75F7243B992211F102
- Saied, Y. A. (2020). Solar Power Development in Off-Grid Areas in Sudan. Presentation by the Sudan Renewable Energy General Directorate