The PRES (Peri-urban and Rural Energy Services) project is funded by the Shell Foundation's "Increasing Access" programme and is being implemented by The Sustainable Alliance of the United Kingdom in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

In many developing counties rural access to high quality energy goods (e.g., solar PV, high performance batteries, CFLs, solar water heaters, LPG, paraffin and LPG stoves, efficient biomass stoves, small electrical gen-sets, etc.) and services (e.g., after sales service, maintenance, etc.) is severely constrained through lack of established rural distribution channels and market infrastructure.

Lack of access to these products and services means that rural dwellers have very limited opportunity to improve their quality of life, their business operations, their productive use of energy, and their livelihoods. Trips to urban areas do permit access to these services but the costs involved are so high and the after sales service so poor, that such access is still extremely limited. Transformation of this situation by facilitating access to a broad range of energy products and services in rural areas leads to accelerated rural development, which offers new business opportunities for rural folk, new employment opportunities for young people, and helps improve the terms of trade between rural and urban sectors in developing countries.

Rural and peri-urban petrol service stations offer a ready-made, ideal distribution network for delivering these goods and services to rural areas at a fraction of the cost of developing other networks, thereby benefiting rural and peri-urban consumers, expanding the market for these products and services. Other peri-urban and rural distribution networks (e.g., hardware stores) could offer similar opportunities to improve rural access to high value energy goods and services.

The overall aim of the PRES project is to define the demand in rural and peri-urban areas of Eastern Africa for 'modern', high quality, high value energy services and goods, and if demand is high enough, to develop robust business plans for the provision of energy services and products to peri-urban and rural areas in Eastern and Southern Africa based on the existing commercial distribution infrastructure (petrol stations, supermarkets, etc).

By achieving improved access to affordable energy services, it is expected that PRES will contribute to reduce poverty and increase welfare and standards of living in peri-urban and rural areas in East Africa.

The project will be implemented in two phases. During phase 1, the level of demand for and opportunities for and barriers to the provision of higher value energy products, improved energy services and the marketing of new products will be examined (se the Phase 1 Project Report). The demand for a range of services and products including kerosene, LPG, high quality batteries, photo-voltaic panels and systems, PV systems servicing, CFLs, kerosene pressure lamps, car battery charging, etc, will also be assessed. Opportunities for utilising existing networks will be examined through targeted interviews of company strategic planners, dealers and other rural and peri-urban operators. Based upon these results, pilots and business models will be scoped, and initial strategies prepared for discussion.

A kick off meeting for Phase 2 was held in Nairobi on 8th April 2002 (minutes available from Document Search).

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