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Sustainable Electrification of Public Services (STEPS): Unlocking finance to transform lives through solar energy /

Access to reliable electricity is crucial for the delivery of quality public services.

Yet, despite sustained growth of solar electrification in the private sector across Africa, tens of thousands of public health facilities, schools and other institutions remain without power because of both the size and scope of funding that is being made available.

Lack of access to reliable electricity remains a significant challenge across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the least electrified region in the world where only 48% of the population have access to electricity. In population terms this means 570 million people across the continent live without access to electricity – that’s 77% of the total unelectrified population globally.

Electricity Access for Health

The World Health Organisation estimates that across sub-Saharan Africa over 66,000 health facilities still don’t have access to reliable electricity, with at least 25,000 facilities having zero access to power.

In South Sudan, 1,576 health facilities (or 89% of all facilities nationwide) lack access to electricity. For Sierra Leone, a detailed electrification roadmap covering health and education, published by SEforALL in 2023, estimates that 1,000 primary health facilities still require access to electricity.

Electricity Access for Education

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 4 out of 5 schools lack access to electricity. This has a direct impact on the quality of education for hundreds of millions of children.

In Sierra Leone, around 1,700 secondary schools are permanently without power meaning none of the learning in classrooms can benefit from access to the internet.

In Zambia, for example, computer science is a mandatory subject but without a stable energy supply, children learn about computers from diagrams on a blackboard. The impact on the vital education of children in a world increasingly reliant on technology is debilitating.

Why has progress been so slow?

The slow pace of public facilities electrification to date is primarily a process problem. Current programming focuses on short-term CAPEX funding leaving a gap in long-term operations and maintenance that result in 40-60% system failure rates. Local governments and private sector partners are not fully brought into project design, implementation and handover, which feeds into failure rates due to lack of long-term ownership and local capacity. With a fragmented landscape of donor-funded programmes, facilities receive multiple, disconnected solar power systems, leading to duplication of effort and cost. Many investors often focus on private facilities, leaving public facilities and the last-mile communities that rely on them underfunded and underserved.

Our solution

Crown Agents, in partnership with Integrity Action and Bamboo Capital, has developed an EaaS financing model that overcomes barriers to long-term service provision from ESPs. Our Sustainable Electrification of Public Services (STEPS) model addresses each of the problems above head on. It enables governments to play their role in energy provision for public facilities, working in partnership with ESPs, who are incentivised to take on responsibility for the installation, operations and maintenance of the solar equipment. As a result, public facilities are able to receive a reliable supply of electricity over a 10-year period, transforming the quality of services they can offer to local populations.

The STEPS model overcomes market failures and delivers sustainable electrification of public facilities by:

1. Public Infrastructure Electricity Accounts (PIEAs) will be established with government

2. The STEPS Fund, a blended finance debt facility, will be managed by Bamboo Capital Partners and offer long-term concessional debt to help ESPs fund CAPEX

3. Citizen monitors will be deployed by Integrity Action to provide independent verification of ESP performance

Our unique climate and energy consortium combines Crown Agents’ ability to work as a trusted partner to governments and donors in managing national-scale public service delivery programmes, with Bamboo Capital’s deep experience in impact investing and fund management in the energy access space.

For more information on our approach, please download the brochure below.