Energy Frontiers

Our powerful photo series spanning Ghana, India and Uganda highlights the realities of life without clean and affordable energy – and the huge opportunities it can bring.

Worldwide, close to one billion people lack access to electricity, and three billion don’t have the fuels and stoves to cook safely. Unlocking universal access to clean and affordable energy is a platform for true climate justice – putting communities on the path to low-carbon development, but also addressing global inequality.  

Urgent action is needed – from investment in frontline organisations supporting the most marginalised, to greater backing for skills and training. 

This year, Ashden is calling for energy access to take its rightful place at the heart of the COP27 climate talks in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. Africa’s COP is a golden chance to build a fairer and better future.   

Ghana: life without cooling bites fishing communities

Ghanaian photographer Nana Kofi Acquah has contributed to the New York Times, Getty Images, and many other platforms, and been commissioned by clients including the UN, Oxfam, Facebook and Airbnb. In November 2021 he visited fishing communities in the Afram Plains, where lack of access to refrigeration makes it harder to earn a decent living.

 Solar appliance innovator PEG Africa has been piloting the sale of affordable fridges and freezers to small shops, restaurants and traders in this and other communities in Ghana’s Volta and Eastern regions, aiming to widen access to sustainable cooling. This work has been supported by Ashden’s Fair Cooling Fund.

Uganda: villages after dark

Ugandan photographer Esther Ruth Mbabazi has been featured in National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, El Pais and The Washington Post. In April 2022 she visited her country’s West Nile region to document life in communities with limited access to energy.

 In these communities, New Energy Nexus Uganda is empowering community organisations to sell affordable clean energy products. Support from New Energy Nexus Uganda includes finance and business bootcamps for grassroots entrepreneurs. The organisation won the 2021 Ashden Award for Energy Access Innovation.

India: dairy farmers power forward

Indian photographer Prashanth Vishwanathan has been published in the New York Times, Forbes, Newsweek and The Guardian. In October 2020 he visited the Latur district in the state of Maharashtra to explore life in its remote dairy farming communities. Without access to cold chain, farmers there can only attract a limited price for their milk – with much of it going to waste. 

In these villages, Promethean Power Systems and its partners are bringing new opportunities to small-scale farmers through low carbon, community-run micro-chilling hubs. Farmers use the hubs to cool milk and sell it on, boosting incomes by an average of 30% and creating new roles for women as hub managers.

Explore more energy access stories

Refugee camps are buzzing with entrepreneurship and ambition – but without energy to power up these plans, a better life will stay out of reach for many. Yet when displaced people do have energy, they are more likely to take part in and (benefit from) Africa’s economic development.

If we want other nations to show more ambition, then wealthy governments must provide reparation and investment to enable vulnerable countries to meet their challenges on adaptation and economic development in a way that is equitable and builds long term resilience. 

When it comes to energy access jobs, women are missing out. Across India, Kenya and Nigeria women make up about 25% of the decentralised renewable energy workforce. Tackling barriers to women’s inclusion is essential to growing the sector.

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