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Aggregating Energy Since 2006

African Energy Observations

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These are some thoughts I have had in my first few days in Africa - I don't know how generalizable they are beyond my experiences here.

I arrived in Tanzania and proceeded to a little village outside Dodoma - the capital. This is a remote area, accessible 2 hours travel from the last paved road. There are some 40,000 people spread out over the metro area.

I frequently see power lines but the price of electricity is close to what we pay in Minnesota - on the order of $.075/kWr. Thus, few people have actually lines into their houses and those that do use it carefully. Most of the power comes from the dam so we have constant power now that the rainy season has filled the lake. 6 months ago, they had power only during the evening and night (except for the frequent unplanned outages).

The school has a new computer lab and just added a bunch of thin clients (basic computers without a hard drive) that probably take some 50-70 watts to operate. They have 70 of them and maybe 12 workstation P4's - taking certainly over 100 watts per unit. When the grid is down, they can run a generator to supply all their power, but it runs on expensive petrol (they pay more than us, as does most of the world). Nonetheless, they recognize the importance and power of information literacy.

I asked about the wisdom of adding all this demand to the grid locally and repeatedly got the response that power is either on or off, as though the amount demanded does not matter.

Word around town is that a nearby village got a contract for carbon offsets! They got a bunch of money and devices to plant 10,000 trees. No trees were planted. The money disappeared into the pockets of the corrupt and they told the foreigners that all the trees were planted and showed them trees that were already there.

Reading about local corruption from afar is considerably easier and less powerful than hearing about it directly from people who have been dealing with it directly. There are no checks and balances on such things here and I have to seriously wonder if seeking carbon offets in this environment is at all helpful.

So it goes, I'll post more observations if I get a chance...