Accepted paper:

From Solar Electrification to Solar Waste? Circular Economy Approach to Off-Grid Electrification in Ghana


Shahrazad Far (Center for Development Research ZEF)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks into the linkages and dynamics between the solar-electrification regime and solar-waste regime in Ghana by employing a circular economy approach.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years, there has been a surge in the amount of off-grid solar light solutions used in the African continent. This is largely due to the electrification efforts for a continent still struggling with ensuring electricity access to many parts of its population especially in rural areas. In Ghana, there is a growing concern over what has been coined 'solar waste' as a constitutive part of the long-standing issue of electronic waste facing the country. The linkages and dynamics between the two regimes (solar-based electrification and waste) remain understudied. Against the background of the challenge of energy poverty, this paper aims at offering some insights into these inter-linkages by employing a circular economy approach on both demand and supply side of electrification based on solar technologies. The paper draws on empirical research recently conducted in the country as a case study using two main methodologies. First methodology is structured interviews with 25 off-grid solar solutions firms operating in Ghana. Second methodology is surveys with 100 households in an island community relying on off-grid renewable energy system for electrification. The paper challenges the claimed sustainability prism of the so-called 'leapfrogging' model of Renewable energy based electrification in the context of Global South countries struggling with energy poverty. It argues that circular economy approaches and models can be employed to shed light and identify the complex connections between electrification and waste management regimes, which are in need of further investigation.

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