From rural Rwanda to the cities of Saudi Arabia, electrical power provides the backbone of modern life. But how far-reaching is its impact on the social and economic development of a place and its people?
It takes only the briefest power cut to remind us how deeply we depend on a reliable supply of electricity. Whether we’re lighting our offices, heating our homes, or powering the devices that keep us constantly connected to the world, electrical power underpins almost every activity and service we rely on, every day of our lives.
All of this shouldn’t be taken for granted.
While electricity is a vital enabler for people, businesses and economies to get their jobs done – and a powerful driver of social and economic prosperity – many millions of people are still deprived access.
Recent data shows that nearly 600 million people in Africa still live without electricity1. Meanwhile, the majority of regions in developing countries still can’t count on accessing reliable and continuous power when they need it.
While this imbalance of power deservedly makes headlines, there is good news. Global electrification has progressed steadily over the last 10 years and is now around 90 percent2. Although, the pandemic of 2020 reversed some of that progress, with investment in power grids falling to its lowest level in a decade3.
Despite the setback, developing economies understand the importance of expanding access still further. Sales of off-grid technologies, such as generator sets, which power homes and businesses in some of the poorest, hardest to reach locations, continue to perform strongly. In fact, experts have shown that more than 30 million people1 electricity1 gain access to basic electricity services through these off-grid technologies.
Where central power grids have been invested in – supported by advanced technologies such as generator sets – countries are seeing their fortunes improve beyond recognition.
In Kenya, economic growth and electricity access have been intertwined. The World Bank reports that at least $3bn in private capital was invested in the power sector, including electricity infrastructure, between 1997 and 20184. This has led to sustainable growth, faster industrialisation and improved living standards. Meanwhile, unemployment and poverty rates have dropped significantly.
Algeria is yet another success story. The north African state has developed advanced technology that captures waste gas previously leaking from its gas pipelines and passes it through gas engines to convert it into electricity. This innovative source of power is supplied to remote villages to power mobile telecom towers and other essential services, boosting outcomes and prosperity in previously cut-off areas.
All of this demonstrates that access to stable electricity transforms economies and societies. When electricity is accessible and dependable, it brings the potential for increased income, improved education, and decreased poverty.
Furthermore, stable and reliable power drives successful multi-national businesses to invest in infrastructure projects and business opportunities in developing countries, especially where the cost of business is relatively low.
Whichever way the trend for grid investment develops in the coming years, generator sets will continue to provide access to stable power for many millions of people worldwide.
They’re a critical piece of the jigsaw; not only meeting the need for prime, non-stop power in remote locations far from national grids, but delivering standby power to factories, offices, hospitals, airports and schools to ensure there’s no impact on critical operations or public health during a grid outage.
Generator sets are of critical value even in the world’s richest economies.
In the U.S., the generator set market has witnessed substantial growth as grid outages have brought unexpected costs and inconvenience to IT-enabled service firms and data centres. Other drivers include the increased vulnerability of power stations to weather events and the transition from fossil-fuelled generation to intermittent renewables.
As swathes of people, communities and businesses continue to rely on generator sets for power, the reliability and cost-effectiveness of those machines has never been more important.
According to Dieselforum.org5 diesel-powered generators “provide the most reliable form of back-up power”. To deliver this dependable power, they must provide robust engine performance and have the latest advanced engine technologies, or users risk costly maintenance bills, downtime, and outages. Power density should be another consideration, because more efficient engines enable generator sets to be cheaper to fuel, operate, service and maintain.
As confidence in domestic power grids continues to rise and manufactures of generator sets and other off-grid technologies support the provision of greater access to power, more of the world’s population will enjoy the increased opportunities and prosperity that reliable connections bring.
More global citizens will be free to scale their businesses with confidence and tip the scales on their life chances. While developing nations will have the energy security to carve a clearer path towards economic prosperity and sustainable development.
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