Tag Archives: offgrid

Ministers Gather to Discuss Development with Off-Grid Renewables

Over a billion people in rural and peri-urban areas live without electricity, and another 2.9 billion rely on traditional fuels (like firewood) for cooking and heating. The Sustainable Development Goals recognise that bringing affordable electricity access to these people will enable increased productivity, higher incomes, improved food and water security, enhanced access to healthcare and education, and a host of other benefits towards developing communities and raising people out of poverty.

But what’s the best way to sustainably bring electricity access to people and gain this myriad of benefits in a timely manner? Off-grid renewables offer one approach that fulfils these needs and is both economical and good for the environment. Continue reading Ministers Gather to Discuss Development with Off-Grid Renewables

International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference Highlights Changing Energy Access Narrative

Nearly 600 off-grid renewable energy practitioners and leaders from the public and private sector are gathering in Nairobi, Kenya this weekend for the third International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC). Organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in partnership with the Kenya Ministry of Energy and Petroleum and the Alliance for Rural Electrification, the objective of IOREC is to boost electricity access through the development of off-grid renewables. Continue reading International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference Highlights Changing Energy Access Narrative

IRENA to Host 3rd International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference in Nairobi

Access to electricity in remote and rural areas is necessary to combat poverty and meet the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. Roughly 15% of the world’s population lives without electricity and many more with unreliable access. Off-grid renewable energy solutions are a cost-effective, environmentally-sustainable and scalable option to expand access to electricity to reach unconnected areas.

The business case to deploy off-grid renewable energy solutions (stand-alone and mini-grid systems) in rural areas has never been stronger. The big question is – How can we scale-up off-grid renewable energy deployment? Continue reading IRENA to Host 3rd International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference in Nairobi

Mini-Grid, Off-Grid Solutions No Longer Second Best

“Mini-grids are not a provisional solution, but rather a financially viable approach to creating sustainable energy systems and increasing energy access throughout the globe.” – Ernesto Macías from SFC Energy Partners

On the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, roughly 60 participants met with IRENA to discuss technological developments, policies and regulations in the field of mini-grid deployment. The key message that echoed throughout this discussion was that mini grids should not be second best to other options, as often they make more sense.

Within the global scenario of energy solutions, mini-grids have traditionally played a secondary role.  Yet, over time – roughly 150 years to date – there have been advancements in models, management techniques and technology. Given the nature of mini-grids, each site brings its own complexity and often requires an entirely different solution from those employed in other host countries. For this reason, the panelists agreed that publishing a set of solutions would provide little support for project developers, but that a list of questions – to be considered before setting up a project – could paint a picture of the possible challenges ahead.

Another necessity to off-grid deployment is community engagement. In Bhutan, for instance, frequent brown-outs in a mini-grid system were curtailed by creating a ‘grid-share system’ enabling community members to know when there was an overload and coordinate with their neighbors to avoid a black out. Such systems are essential to strengthen the credibility of renewable energy projects, as failure in one occasion risks reduced engagement in future projects.

The credibility of mini-grid projects could also be threatened by another issue, which needs to be addressed urgently: uncertainty regarding main grid expansion. This perception that mini-grids are temporary, spells risk for investors.To make these projects attractive, developers must determine whether a grid expansion is likely and come up with contingency plans.

Overall, it is clear that mini-grids could offer unique solutions and accelerate progress in rural electrification, but to achieve this operators will have to think outside of the box and make it clear to the energy community that this technology is here to stay.

To support off-grid development, IRENA recently published a new report highlighting key findings and recommendations of the Second International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference in 2014. The report finds that financing for off-grid development needs to be more accessible and better administered; comprehensive data is needed on technology costs, socio-economic impacts, resource availability and other factors in order to guide effective decision making on scaling up off-grid deployment; capacity building efforts are needed for public agencies, financing institutions, entrepreneurs, regulators and others to promote better understanding the peculiarities of the off-grid sector.

Renewable Energy Can Help Reach 100% Electrification

Sustainable energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, increased social equity and an environment that allows the world to thrive.”- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative

During IRENA’s fifth Assembly today, delegates engaged in a programmatic discussion on off-grid renewable energy deployment. Four years ago, The UN launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative to meet the goal of providing electricity to 100% of the global population by 2030. While progress has been achieved in this area, with 1.7 billion more people connected today than in 1990, there is still a long way to go.

To reach 100% electrification, the rate of electricity infrastructure expansion must double.

According to Kandeh Yumkella, Special UN Representative of the SE4All initiative speaking from the panel today, off-grid solutions, both as mini-grids and standalone systems, will provide the greater share of additional generation necessary to achieve universal electricity access within the next 15 years.

“Large fossil-fuel projects take 3-5 years to deliver electricity. Smaller, off-grid renewable energy projects can bring power to the people much faster. They must be the way forward.” – Kandeh Yumkella

Renewable energy technologies are cost-competitive, mature, modular, adaptable, secure, environmentally sustainable and accessible. IRENA’s work on costings, illustrated in a new report launched yesterday, finds that renewable energy technologies are the most cost-competitive option for electrification in many rural areas and islands. Large reductions in the cost of technology – nearly 80 percent for solar PV technology since 2008, for example – have made renewables significantly cheaper than diesel-fired generation or kerosene-based conventional lighting in off-grid areas.

26 million household are already served by off grid renewable energy, 20 million through solar home systems, 5 million through renewable energy-based minigrids and 1 million through small wind turbines.

There are still significant barriers however that countries must overcome to implement off grid systems including:

  • Ideology: In order to scale up deployment, the ideology needs to move from a project to project approach, to a market-level approach with targeted incentives and enabling policies.
  • Finance: We currently invest USD 9 billion a year on energy access, but USD 45 billion is needed to achieve universal access (but funds like ADFD are helping bridge this gap).
  • Capacity building: Adequate training and education are needed to support local implementation and decrease independence on foreign know-how.

The session introduced a Working Paper on Off-Grid Renewable Energy Systems which outlines some of the challenges and opportunities with off grid electrification.