Creative Writing – 135
Comprehension questions for senior school
Question Passage Source – TIME
The results of fossil-fuel-based, centralized, power-plant strategies of the past 50 years speak for themselves: high levels of pollution and slow rollouts due to high construction and fuel costs. Instead, we need to focus on minigrid-based electricity powered by solar power and batteries, which can provide 24-hour clean energy. And because they are decentralized—with the electricity that each community needs provided by solar farms in the area (optimized through artificial intelligence and Internet of Things technologies) and without long, expensive transmission lines—minigrids are often low-cost and deployable in weeks. Already, Energicity has brought solar-powered electricity to 40,000 people, and our goal for 2022 is to reach 250,000 more, across four countries in West Africa.
With over $10 billion committed—including pledges from organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation and from a multitude of governments—bringing green power to 6 million people in 2022 should be achievable. We have some successful models already, like a private-public partnership in Sierra Leone; minigrid companies Energicity, Winch Energy and PowerGen; the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office; and private investors providing equity funding. Together, we expect to bring minigrid-based power to 10% of Sierra Leone’s population in the next 12 months.
One of Energicity’s customers in Sierra Leone is Memenatu, a businesswoman living in the fishing town of Kychom. Without electricity to power a freezer, she bought fish to dry in the sun, so that it would keep as she traveled the 25 miles to sell in Kambia, the district capital. Knowing she did not have enough time to dry many fish in the sun before they spoiled, she bought only 20 at a time, and because dried fish did not sell for very much she made only about $20 on market days. After she got connected to Energicity’s solar minigrid, though, Memenatu could afford to buy and power a freezer—and as a result, her family’s income has increased by some 700%. The frozen fish are much more valuable in the market than dried fish, and she can buy many more each day because freezing is faster than drying.
There are millions like her, for whom there’s a clear solution forward, one that brings needed access to electricity to those who lack it, while building up infrastructure that will help reduce human contributions to global climate change. We just need everyone involved, from foundations to climate consultants to national governments to private investors, to not only commit to the distributed solar-energy approach, but also, in 2022, to act on it.
1. What are the pitfalls of the conventional power generation plants?
2. What alternatives are desirable for African conditions? Why you say so?
3. Which company has done pioneering work in this regard. Detail its work.
4. What strides Sierra Leone has made in providing minigrid-based power? Who are the main players aiding this effort?
5. Who is Memenatu? What does she do for a living?
6. How was she constrained in her business due to the lack of a freezer?
7. How her business prospered after she got Energycity’s power?
1. Conventional power plants are capital-intensive, and take long to be erected. As they burn coal, they aggravate pollution hazards. To transmit the generated power to individual homes located hundreds of kilometers away, transmission lines need to be laid. All these are time-consuming jobs. Fossil fuel is no longer the preferred source of electric power.
2. Small generators based on solar and wind power can be located near a cluster of communities to provide electricity to homes. Using efficient battery storage methods, and interlinking the different generating points through use of Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things technology, the communities can be served with reliable and steady electricity round the clock. As the solar and wind generators are low cost and simple, they can be installed with ease and quickly. They don’t cause pollution issues.
3. A company named Energicity has brought solar-powered electricity to 40,000 people already. It plans to add another 250,000 customers in West Africa to its beneficiaries by 2022.
4. Sierra Leone has made impressive progress in building renewable energy infrastructure in the country. It has been assisted in its efforts by the Rockefeller Foundation and a handful of foreign countries. Together they have garnered $10 billion which will pave the way for providing green power to six million people by 2022. Some private players like Energicity, Winch Energy and PowerGen have entered into public-private partnerships with the government to execute the projects. The British government is also aiding this effort. In another 12 months, 10% of Sierra Leone’s population will have access to renewable power.
5. Memenatu, a businesswoman hailing from the fishing town of Kychom in Sierra Leone. She is a small time dry fish seller whose business is stifled by non-availability of electric power.
6. With no freezer, Merimantu can’t store fresh fish for long. That limits her ability to buy more quantities of fish at a time, store the stock, and sell them gradually. She, therefore, sells dried fish instead. She buys about 20 numbers of fish at a time, sun-dries them, and then travels 25 kilometers to reach Kambia, the district headquarter town, to sell it there. Dried fish fetch a lower price than fresh fish, so Memenatu’s profit from her dry fish trade is limited to a meagre $20 on market days.
7. For scores of fish sellers like Merimantu, non-availability of electric power poses huge challenges. It restricts them to primitive ways of storing and selling perishables like fish. Their earning capacity becomes limited as they have to handle small lots of fish at a time fearing wastage through rotting. For women like Merimantu, Energycity’s minigrid solar power came as a godsend. She bought a freezer and stored bigger quantities of fish for much longer periods. Her business in fish retailing has flourished, thanks to Energygrid. Memenatu’s family’s income has increased seven times because the retailing profits from frozen fish is much higher than that from dried fish.