It starts with power. But what comes after? For many rural communities in developing countries, getting access to electricity doesn’t always mean knowing how to use it to generate income. Especially if it’s for the first time.
Over the 50+ years of implementing electrification programs worldwide, the NRECA International team has learned that bringing electricity is often not enough. It is critical to also help those who receive electricity access with the means and knowledge to generate income. And this is done by implementing productive use of electricity (PUE) programs. The benefits are clear: Improved quality of life, better access to healthcare, improved education for children, and sustainable economic growth.
NRECA International implements PUE programs in developing countries to support local enterprises like grain mills, dairy farmers and coffee growers. This is done by facilitating loans and advising farmers to mechanize their mills to increase yield and generate more income, and also give electric service providers tools they need to support their communities. This can be crucial to ensure the survival and success of these small enterprises, which in turn can unlock the full potential economic growth in communities.
In Uganda, NRECA International is supporting the government’s Rural Electrification Administration’s mission to transform the socio-economic status of its rural communities by extending electricity services. In addition to producing a master electrification plans for the entire country, the team recently completed an analysis to expand PUE in the agricultural sector in rural and peri-urban parts of the country. Financed by the US Agency for International Development, the team designed a PUE program that included conducting a market analysis of eight value chain commodities using electricity-powered equipment, like mills, refrigerators, and welding equipment; defining financial plans or resources to help farmers or businesses buy the right equipment; and a develop plans to help businesses make informed investment decisions to make sure they result in income growth.
Working with Small Businesses
In Ghana, the Millennium Challenge Corporation asked NRECA International to investigate how small businesses in specific markets can improve their businesses by using electricity more productively. In this case, examining more efficient use of electricity (not just access) to increase income growth. This effort was designed to help electricity-intensive businesses to achieve higher profits in certain markets and economic enclaves.
Understanding the needs of a community
Access to electricity is a key contributing factor to grow income and contributes to business expansion. Sustained and long-term access to capital to finance service expansion is necessary to support economic growth but is not, by itself, sufficient. Since its inception, NRECA International’s team of rural electrification experts have focused program resources to go beyond infrastructure development. The legacy inherited from the American electric cooperative movement almost 100 years ago guides the team to examine the means necessary to support income growth potential in communities and improve people’s lives. There is no short cut to long-term success: Developing strong partnerships with communities is necessary for overall sustained economic growth AND achieving overall electrification goals.