Off-Grid Solar Energy and Its Impacts on Rural Livelihoods : A Case Study on Tanzania
Abstract: Energy poverty and lack of access to electricity is a global problem which is recognised in the sustainable development goal 7. Today 1.2 billion people live without access to electricity and most of them are situated in Sub-Saharan Africa where biomass still constitutes the main source of energy. Rural areas are unproportionally affected by this throughout SSA since grid-extension has been slow and most rural dwellers are not connected to any form of electricity grid. Extending the grid to more isolated rural areas may however be economically and politically infeasible which is why off-grid solutions is an attractive solution to close the energy poverty gap. Off-grid solar energy has during recent years been increasingly promoted as viable solution to provide clean, affordable and accessible energy to rural households in SSA. While there is extensive research available on the economic feasibility and socioeconomic impacts of off-grid solar energy, there has been limited research with explicit focus on how livelihoods of rural households in SSA have been impacted from a sustainable livelihood perspective. This case study on Tanzania argues that the sustainable livelihoods perspective is crucial in getting a holistic understanding of how off-grid solar energy has impacted rural households in SSA. Through qualitative interviews with a number of households, businesses and social services in three rural villages located in the Tanga region, this study found that off-grid solar energy overall seemed to have a positive impact on the communities and the livelihoods of individual households. However, some concerns are also raised with the sustainability of off-grid solar energy. While it has great recognised potential and direct impact, some key challenges were identified as issue of energy security for the household and concerns of economic feasibility in the solar energy sector.
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