Electriciens sans frontières are a non-governmental organisation who have been working around the world since 1986 to provide the two essential conditions to eradicating poverty in remote communities: access to water and electricity.
With those fundamental utilities in place, communities can help themselves to improve health and build prosperity through education and employment.
With the support of 1,200 volunteers and in partnership with local actors, ESF promote economic and human development by using renewable energy.
Their initiative known as Café Lumière is a project which brings reliable solar-based industrial-scale power to the heart of remote communities. It allows commercial development and, of course, personal leisure energy use for the first time. Last month the programme which already has six installations in other nations, achieved its first infrastructure in Benin.
Ultimately, four Cafés Lumière will meet the energy needs of the entire population (public services, entrepreneurs and residents) of the villages of Tchinakomey, Djekpé, Affio and Honoué located on Lake Nokoué.
Cafés Lumière provides work opportunities for families who – owing to commercial constraints – will never otherwise be provided with grid electricity. Lithium-Battery energy-storage of 30kWh ensure that power is available on demand 24 hours/day.Photo Credit ©MCA
Electricity is made available alongside social facilities in easily accessible village-centre locations. Reliable electricity dynamically changes the economy of families who are now able to buy the energy which allows them to perform their work at scale, earn money, and raise their living standard. It also allows for the provision of improved healthcare and education.
This basic infrastructure is the foundation of a local economy where entrepreneurship was previously not possible. Commercial success for ‘makers’ goes on to provide immediate benefits for other community members.
One such entrepreneur – Hounkpe Maria, pictured at the head of this article – lives in the village of Tchinakomey, Benin. She says:
I am a professional in weaving, sewing and knitting. I am very happy with the electricity we finally have. I am very happy with it because, before, I used manual machines, but with electricity I will be able to use much more sophisticated machines, electric machines. I therefore ask that electrical machines be made available so that I can exploit them for the total development of what I do. THANKS.
Power demands in the villages are quite diverse and have changed the lives of craftspeople, farmers, vendors requiring refrigeration, electric motor based machinery processing and manufacture; it allows welding, and is used by private individuals who can take advantage of mobile phone technology for the first time, and for social and administrative use in public buildings having lighting or office equipment.
Typical Power Installation
Victron Energy is a partner to Electriciens sans frontières, offering product training for system design, installation and remote monitoring which can be effortlessly achieved via the Victron Remote Management VRM platform.
Emmanuel Mercier, Victron Energy sales manager for France, says : We are very pround to have set up a specific technical training program with Electricien sans frontières into our French practical training center https://www.victronenergy.fr/formation. Then our privileged partner can bring and teach Victron Energy products know how to the local population in connection with our local distributors.
A typical system build comprises:
- 3 x Quattro 48/8000 Inverter/chargers. The Quattro has two AC inlets with automatic connection to a live power source, and two AC power outlets with automatic shutdown on the second circuit if no AC source is available.
- 2 x SmartSolar MPPT RS 450/100 Solar Charge Controllers. These Solar Charge Controller are designed for charging 48V battery banks from larger arrays which have been series connected to provide a high charging voltage.
- Fronius Symo
- Cerbo GX and GX Touch 50 are the system’s communication and control devices. The Cerbo GX offers an extensive connectivity to harmonise all Victron Energy and third party manufacture devices which make up the installation
- Lithium Battery storage of 30kWh
The power of Solar
Solar Energy provides a reliable power source in almost any location around the world, and at any scale. Solar energy systems can easily be expanded according to need – matching local economy growth.
Café Lumière is based on a public-private partnership with the involvement of local authorities and the State in governance, each municipality being associated with project management and entrusting the management of Café Lumière to a delegated company – which provides another local source of employment.
The delegated company or private operator takes ownership of the project, keeps accounts, maintains the power installation, and undertakes the periodic renewal of equipment. They also operate financing solutions suitable to the small scale entrepreneurs – allowing start-ups to benefit from the infrastructure which has been put in place, and to achieve their personal economic goals. This arrangement also ensures the project’s viability and sustainability.
A Replicable solution to development
The Café Lumière project is replicable in other nations- the model is the subject of a pilot project currently being deployed in Madagascar and financed principally by the French Development Agency (AFD), the EDF Foundation and the Lord Michelham Foundation.
As a result 20,000 people have benefitted from access to electrical services through the establishment of 6 “Café Lumière” multi-service energy platforms in 6 rural municipalities.
It brings a viable local economy to the most disadvantaged locations around the world.