Shell has vowed to help pay the electricity bills of some customers in financial difficulty because of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The supermajor has granted $1.7 million to local companies d.light, PowerGen, Husk Power Systems, Orb Energy and SolarNow — all of which have Shell as a minority investor.

The grants will also support customers of RVE.SOL, a company that Shell partners with to deliver social investment programmes providing access to energy in east Africa.

In addition, Shell said, the funds will also contribute to the installation of solar power systems in more than 30 hospitals and community institutions, including orphanages and schools, free of charge or at discounted rates.

The projects will be commissioned in Kenya, Sierra Leone and India.

Through the companies’ existing customer networks, the grants will help subsidise the energy bills of more than 110,000 households under heightened financial pressure because of the pandemic.

Covid-19 impact

Shell said the financial support aims to reach up to 700,000 people.

“Working jointly with our partners, we want to help families, communities and businesses keep the lights on and mitigate the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on their lives,” said chief executive Ben van Beurden.

Due to the pandemic, many power customers have less money available for electricity to power lights, fans, fridges, or other appliances, in these regions.

Shell cited research by impact measurement company 60 Decibels on Kenya, where around 59% of lower-income customers of off-grid energy companies said their financial situation had become much worse since the start of the pandemic.

“With Covid-19, the key is to help families and entrepreneurs weather this hardship, particularly those in vulnerable locations, so that innovation and income creation can continue,” said RVE.SOL chief executive Vivian Vendeirinho.

“Shell's grant to RVE.SOL's customers will help maintain access to reliable electricity and enable people and small businesses to thrive,” she added.

So far this year, Africa has recorded 1 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 21,000 people have lost their lives, with the pandemic yet to peak on the continent, according to figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Region in August.

Earlier this year, Shell also donated $3 million to the Covid-19 Resilience Fund set up by Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian and development organisation working in more than 40 countries.

The fund paid for essential aid to help people protect themselves against the virus, including by providing clean water, reliable information, personal protective equipment and money to buy food.

With the funds, Mercy Corps helped support people in Somalia, in south-west Pakistan and in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.