News Release: Kickoff of DRE Task Force

Abuja, February 15, 2018 – A Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) Taskforce to accelerate modern energy access initiatives was launched today by a coalition of partners.

DRE solutionswhich range from stand-alone systems to mini-grids and mobile solar farms – have the advantage of being readily available, affordable and immediately deployable. This allows the delivery of energy access in a number of daysversus the years it takes to site, permit, build and manage a traditional centralized fossil fuel grid systemand can be an important tool for Nigeria to better exploit the full range of its renewable energy resources, especially with delivering energy to last-mile communities.

The taskforce is comprised of over 32 members drawn from amongst government, donors, renewable energy companies, development finance institutions, investors, civil society organizations, and trade associations.

The taskforce launch is implemented in Nigeria by a collaborative partnership between the US Global Development Lab, Power Africa, USAID-Nigeria, FHI360 and Power for All. This collaboration was formed under the Scaling Off Grid Energy (SOGE) Grand Challenge for Development, a partnership which aims to accelerate growth in the off-grid energy market to provide 20 million households in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to modern, clean and affordable electricity.

The task force is a coordination group formed to identify and implement a multi-stakeholder approach to accelerating the end of energy poverty in Nigeria. The goals of the DRE Task Force include identifying priorities and supporting specific stakeholder led actions that will accelerate the expansion of off-grid energy in Nigeria. This is in line with the goals and vision of the Nigerian Government’s commitment towards increasing power access in Nigeria and increasing the rate of electrification to rural areas.

The task force also builds upon Power for All’s Call to Action held in March 2017 in Abuja, where stakeholders in the renewable energy industry (government, private sector, civil society organizations, investors, and donor agencies) each made a set of credible commitments to take action in support of and to accelerate the DRE market.

Roseann Casey, Power Africa lead for Nigeria, said: “Power Africa’s approach is based on partnership. We value the opportunity to be part of this important dialogue with diverse stakeholders who are eager to find both opportunities and solutions in the off-grid space.”

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Christina Blumel of FHI 360 said “We are very happy to have the opportunity to work with Power for All in launching the Task Force, and to see the engagement and enthusiasm around DRE in Nigeria.

“There are numerous barriers that have prevented the Nigerian DRE sector from growing to its full potential,” said Kristina Skierka, the CEO of Power For All. “The launch of this taskforce is certainly the beginning of an energy revolution that gets partners and stakeholders in the industry, working together to unlock these barriers, accelerate the market and provide energy services to last mile communities trapped in energy poverty across Nigeria for years.”

Segun Adaju, the President of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN), a leading industry trade group said, “The DRE Taskforce is coming at the very right time to support scaling of off-grid energy. It will support in removing the barriers that have held back the adoption of off-grid power by bringing the relevant stakeholders. With SMART action plans, I am convinced that this initiative is what the sector requires to enhance the rapid deployment of decentralized renewable energy.”

About Power Africa

Power Africa is a U.S. Government-led initiative comprised of 12 U.S. Government Departments and Agencies, over 130 private sector companies, and 16 bilateral and multilateral development partners. Launched in 2013, Power Africa’s goals are to increase electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by adding more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections. The Power Africa Coordinator’s Office uses a USAID-led model to integrate the 12 U.S. Government Departments and Agencies into a one-stop-shop to remove barriers that impede energy development in sub-Saharan Africa and to unlock the substantial natural gas, wind, solar, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal resources on the continent. To date, Power Africa has leveraged over $50 billion in commitments from the public and private sectors, including more than $40 billion in commitments from the private sector. For additional information, please visit the Power Africa website (www.usaid.gov/powerafrica).

About Scaling Off Grid Energy Grand Challenge for Development

The Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge for Development (SOGE) is a global partnership founded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Power Africa, the U.K. Department for International Development’s Energy Africa campaign, the African Development Bank, and independent charity, the Shell Foundation. SOGE works to accelerate growth in the off-grid energy market to provide 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa with access to modern, clean, and affordable energy. For more information, visit the Scaling Off Grid Energy website (www.scalingoffgrid.org)

About FHI360

FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. Our staff includes experts in health, education,  nutrition, environment, economic development, civil society, gender, youth, research, technology, communication and social marketing — creating a unique mix of capabilities to address today's interrelated development challenges. FHI 360 serves more than 60 countries and all U.S. states and territories. For more information, visit the FHI360 website (www.fhi360.org)

About Power for All

Power for All is a global campaign that advances decentralized renewable energy as the fastest, most cost-effective and sustainable approach to universal energy access. It is present in 15 countries and has its headquarters in California, USA. As part of its commitment to driving energy revolution, the Power for All campaign, launched in Nigeria in 2016 and focuses on accelerating universal energy access via decentralized renewable energy (DRE) as the fastest, cleanest and most cost-effective solution to energy poverty. By working with the DRE ecosystem (governments, civil society, private sector, donors groups and other stakeholders) to catalyze the growth of DRE markets; Power for All leverages the power of market-based solutions to accelerate access to DRE—and the improvements in health, well-being and opportunities that comes with safe, affordable and reliable energy. For more information, visit the Power for All website (www.powerforall.org)

2018: utilities and the decentralized pivot

Photo Credit: Zola. Mathieu Young

Photo Credit: Zola. Mathieu Young

“The Future of Energy”--also known as “The Energy Transition”--has been contemplated, discussed, and written about ad nauseam by nearly every scholar and consulting firm working in or around the power sector today. In near perfect alignment, leading experts predict that traditional utilities, in order to survive, must evolve from a centralized system—a mix of sub-stations, regulators, operators, and transmission lines—into one that incorporates a mix of generation technologies, decentralized companies, and new business models.

While it is too early to put traditional utilities on the endangered species list, the entire “Future of Energy” conversation questions whether energy is a good or a service--as well as a right or a privilege--especially in emerging markets. From the Power for All perspective, the utility of the future is one that leaves no one behind. If this is the working model, then the answer lies in which framework will help realize universal energy access before 2030. Indeed, it is an integrated energy framework--an approach that radically desegregates distributed solutions, where grid extension, mini-grids, and standalone systems are given equal consideration in national energy policy and planning--that stands the best chance of ending energy poverty.

As many governments and utilities in countries like Ethiopia or Benin have struggled to deliver on public promises of reliable, quality, affordable, energy for all, private players in the decentralized renewable energy (DRE) sector have designed energy as both a “good” that can be purchased (e.g., in the form of a modular home system or a nano-grid) as well as a service--transforming the way the energy is generated, used and paid for.  Yet even as the sector has marked a decade of growth, innovation and improving the lives of 360 million people, DRE has yet to be truly accepted by the energy establishment, as evidenced by the limited number of countries with thriving DRE markets or the suite of needed DRE-related policies.

Based on Power for All’s work over the last two years at a global and local level, it is the absence of a comprehensive, believable and actionable integrated energy frameworks—co-created by decentralized and centralized energy actors (including engineering, modeling and demonstration projects)—that is limiting the global community’s ability to take full advantage of the entire array of energy solutions to deliver universal access.

To fill this action gap, 2018 is the year that Power for All will focus on organizing the DRE sector to sit at the same table with traditional utilities and accelerate the end of energy poverty. Emboldened by recent utility tie-ups by Power for All partners Fenix (with ENGIE) and Off Grid Electric (with EDF), Power for All will build on 2017’s Call to Action Decentralized Renewables: From Promise to Progress to advance integrated energy planning in low energy access countries (LEAs). This next evolution of Power for All’s advocacy platform will include modeling, collaborations, research and partnerships to help advance  energy planning that involves the systematic analysis of all the factors that influence the design of energy systems, including the full range of options available, and the costs and benefits of different scenarios and technologies.

Granted, some companies in the DRE sector might prefer to fly under the radar or work in countries with weak regulations, thriving on competitive advantage, last-mile distribution and strong marketing tactics alone. However, in order to permanently end misconceptions that DRE is just a CSR program or tool for great give-away publicity stunts, this sector has to be legitimized by the energy establishment. With an integrated approach, governments can make more informed decisions about how to invest scarce public resources, leveraging more private investment and thus maximizing the total investment deployed in pursuit of energy access goals.

As our sector has shown, the “Future of Energy” is already here; it is a dramatically different electricity future that is a participatory system, with homes and businesses around the world are becoming energy producers (as well as consumers) and architects of a new power system. The successful next-generation utility will focus on harnessing these demand-side forces, aligning incentives and operations with consumers and distributed providers. This is a marketplace custom-made for the energy entrepreneurs of the decentralized renewable energy sector. It this is future that will enable power for all.

Fact sheet: SDG7 and vulnerable communities

From the aftermath of hurricanes in Haiti and Puerto Rico, to flooding in India and the communities fleeing conflict in Syria and Myanmar, decentralized renewables are increasingly proving themselves as a powerful way to help vulnerable communities, including the 60 million refugees worldwide, gain access to electricity and related services. Most recently, Power Africa and Mastercard announced the Smart Communities Coalition, a public-private partnership to support refugee settlements. 

Learn more about the power of DRE on vulnerable communities with the latest PEAK Fact Sheet.

Download the Fact Sheet: Decentralized Renewables: Improve Safety for Vulnerable Communities  (74 kb)

In conversation with Andrew Herscowitz, Power Africa

During the recent Global Off-Grid Solar Forum, we sat down with Andrew Herscowitz, Coordinator of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Power Africa, to discuss the future of the initiative’s pioneering market-based effort to scale energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa. Power Africa turns 5 years old in June. 

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Even with a new America-first political reality in Washington, D.C., Herscowitz expressed full confidence in the future of Power Africa, pointing out that funding for fiscal year 2017 was passed by the U.S. legislature, with the president’s 2018 fiscal request to Congress also including continued funding. 

“Power Africa is an effort that the new administration has continued to support,” he told Power for All. “Energy access is part of the new National Security Strategy (NSS), and Power Africa advances that part of the NSS… Our work continues and we continue to remain on track for achieving our goals.”

The rapid evolution of the sector, however, means that Power Africa needs to evolve as well, Herscowitz said, pointing to two growing focus areas: 1. supporting the movement from portable lighting to larger energy systems, including mini-grids, and 2. scaling the market for productive use appliances.

“The ultimate goal is higher levels of energy access, beyond basic lighting. What we realize: simply selling people electrons is likely not a viable business model on its own. We have to figure out how to bundle services and rethink business models to include productive use,” he said. “The next market that needs a lot more hand holding is the micro-grid sector and we will give it an increased focus to see if this is a solution that in the long-term is transformational and ready to take off.” (Also, see his recent perspective, “Hey Discos! (That is, Electricity Distribution Companies)”. 

Power Africa is already funding some mini-grid companies, is working with the U.S. National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) on a Quality Assurance Framework for mini-grids, and is also supporting a new matchmaking platform to connect mini-grid investors, developers and vendors. In addition, Power Africa and Mastercard recently announced the Smart Communities Coalition, a public-private effort to improve the delivery of essential services to refugees and host community members through enhanced coordination between public and private entities and strategic implementation of technology.

“In part, the impetus behind Power Africa’s participation in the coalition was that we wanted to give micro-grid companies a controlled environment to test their business models. Refugee settlements can facilitate that because populations can be more densely populated. Companies can tweak models on what's working, and what's not, and then move from a controlled environment to the broader market.”

The new coalition reflects Power Africa’s focus on greater collaboration, Herscowitz said.

“We’re happy to share credit, because we have to work closely together and not compete if we want to achieve impact. We’re on the phone with partners on a daily basis, collaborating at both the headquarter and country levels.” 

Another example of that collaborative vision involves super efficient appliances. Power Africa and UKaid recently relaunched the Efficiency for Access coalition, which includes other development partners and private foundations to bring together a range of programs and support mechanisms to accelerate energy efficiency in clean energy access efforts, driving market scale to super-efficient technologies, supporting innovation, and improving sector coordination.  As part of the new push, UKaid plans to spend £18 million over five years on the Low-Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) program to accelerate the availability, affordability, efficiency and performance of a range of appliances and related technologies suited for developing countries.

“There is tremendous demand for appliances. Once people get a taste of electricity to do the things that we take for granted, their demand for other appliances increases,” Herscowitz said, noting that refrigeration is on the top of that list. 

During the off-grid solar forum, Power Africa, UKaid, and USAID’s Scaling Off-Grid Energy (SOGE) and the Global LEAP initiative announced the winners of two off-grid refrigerator innovation prizes, with SunDanzer winning both prizes for greatest efficiency and overall value, and receiving a total of $400,000. This is one of several companies that have been awarded funding under the Grand Challenge, and the partnership plans to launch similar challenges for other appliances in the coming year.

Research summary: Sad state of support for distributed energy in India

Power for All partner IISD produces exceptional analysis focused on energy subsidies worldwide through its Global Subsidies Initiative. New data reveals that India's government is giving short shrift to decentralized renewables when handing out energy subsidies. In fact, less than 1% of all subsidies go to distributed renewables, IISD discovered in a new report, India's Energy Transition: Mapping energy subsidies to fossil fuels and clean energy in India. The tradeoff for ignoring decentralized solutions? Annual coal subsidies in India are enough to pay for 114 million solar lamps.

For more, see the DRE-specific fact sheet that our PEAK research team produced in collaboration with IISD, as well as a deeper look at the topic on our Powering Rural India channel:

Download the Research Summary: An Overview of Indian Electricity Sector Subsidies  (164 kb)

Spotlight: massive "under-the-grid" opportunity for distributed energy

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In our ongoing series with GTM Research on energy access, GTMR's Ben Attia and our PEAK research team uncover the untapped opportunity for decentralized solutions to serve "under-the-grid" communities, which total 110 million people, or one in every six African people without electricity access. increased support for decentralized technologies is a major solution to the problem, they write, especially in countries with less innovative utilities.

Learn more in their article, which appeared on Greentech Media and has attracted thousands of views already.

 

Campaign updates: 2018 plans

2018 is a pivotal year, with a high-level global spotlight on SDG7 and universal energy access. Power for All will be redoubling its efforts to advocate on behalf of the DRE sector and catalyze markets, while also going deeper on a few key themes: integrated energy (with a focus on the future role of utilities, including mini-grids), the SDG7 nexus with other development goals, skills and jobs, and knowledge sharing. Our direction continues to be guided by input from campaign partners, and we were proud to be at the recently concluded GOGLA forum, where we provided updates to campaign partners on our plans for the year, and heard about priorities from dozens of campaign partners in 1:1 meetings. (See a partial list of expected trends for 2018 from our communications director William Brent).

Below are highlights of our 2018 plans, as well as updates from our country offices. Please contact us if there is any area of particular interest to you.

25x25

A major goal of the campaign, first put forward by our CEO Kristina Skierka in May of last year, remains to replicate the market activation model for sector building that we and our partners piloted in Sierra Leone, by expanding to 25 countries by 2025. The Sierra Leone work, which resulted in a range of successes, including the entry of many private sector companies to the market (d.light, Ignite Power, Azuri Technologies, Greenlight Planet and more), was recently nominated for the Energy Access Frontiers category of the respected Ashden Awards. The work was also presented at an International Solar Alliance event organized as part of the World Future Energy Summit, where it was recognized as a “Best Practice for Solar Market Building”.

Speakers from the International Solar Alliance (ISA) forum at the World Future Energy Summit, including ISA Director General Upendra Tripathy.

Speakers from the International Solar Alliance (ISA) forum at the World Future Energy Summit, including ISA Director General Upendra Tripathy.

Mini-Grids and Utilities 2.0

Following on the heels of calls to action in 2016 (focused on multilateral development banks) and 2017 (focused on national policy makers and regulators), our call to action in 2018 will go one level deeper, with a focus on ensuring the utilities of the future are ones that fully integrate and give equal footing to decentralized solutions. A key component of that work will be to provide advocacy support for mini-grid companies in the same way we have supported standalone solar solutions since launching the campaign in 2015. For more on our perspective on the role of utilities, please see our CEO Kristina Skierka’s perspective in this month’s newsletter.

Research

Our research arm, the Platform for Energy Access Knowledge (PEAK), is in for a major evolution this year. Starting in December, PEAK started alpha testing a first-of-its-kind interactive knowledge platform designed to directly address the information access and use gaps facing the DRE sector. The platform is designed to automatically curate, and index vetted, reputable, open-access research, helping users to quickly find, visualize, and draw insights that enable easily shareable, compelling, data-driven proof points. The platform is being built in partnership with an expert tech team from Silicon Valley. Look out for our public launch coming soon.  

Also to support data sharing, PEAK, in partnership with GOGLA's Social Impact Metrics Working Group recently established the DRE Data Working Group. The group is a broad network of institutional representatives involved in data curation and energy access analysis. It creates a shared space for quickly and easily sharing updates on new data, reports and information being published across relevant fields (e.g. impacts, finance, policy, technology). Updates from this group will directly inform PEAK and is a first step for better cooperation and coordination for the DRE sector. The Data Group was launched at GOGLA's Off-Grid Solar Forum, in Hong Kong January 2018. To find out more about the Data Group and how to join, please contact Dr. Rebekah Shirley, our Director of Research.

Power for All has also been busy supporting research and data sharing in direct, hands on ways on the ground in Nairobi, Kenya, where PEAK is based. Power for All, in partnership with Hivos, Practical Action and wPower launched the Kenya Energy Access Research Working Group. The Working Group convenes actors in the local energy access space to support coordinated, organized, efficient activity among partners in the aim of faster action and impact realization. The kick-off was in November 2017 and our next working Group meeting will be in February.

In Country

In Nigeria, activity is heating up, with a growing number of actors entering the market, amid growing excitement about the prospects for decentralized renewable energy (DRE). Power for All is at the center of activities. In December, we hosted a stakeholder workshop with sector companies held on the sideline of the mini-grid conference organized by the World Bank and the Nigeria Rural Electrification Agency. The workshop consisted of a combination of short presentations, open discussions and ‘rapid-fire’ style interventions where Power For All shared with partners its year in review of the DRE sector in 2017, its planned activities and projects and long term projections for the DRE sector in Nigeria for 2018 and beyond. The workshop had over 30 participants in attendance, cutting across mini-grid developers, clean energy distributors and entrepreneurs. Power For All also attended the Mini-Grid Action Learning Event. The week-long event consisted of a combination of presentations, panel sessions involving different stakeholder groups, a technical conference, and a field visit to rural communities electrified through mini-grids. The event was a success and participation of over 600 stakeholders, including government, investors, industry players, financiers, CSOs, individuals and the media.

Also in December, the South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDC) with the support of Power For All hosted the Ola Ndi Igbo Exhibition, Inventors and Innovators Fair – a biennial event focused on showcasing local inventions and innovations across education, agriculture, information, entertainment, and environment providing local solutions in the southeastern region of Nigeria. This year’s event was focused on showcasing renewable energy related inventions and innovations. To commence 2018, the Nigerian team also organized a full-day team retreat to review project and activities of the previous year, plan ahead for the successful implementation of upcoming projects and activitie, and review the Power For All guidelines of operations and organizational structure to ensure achievement of our national goals and objectives.  

A renewable energy innovator receives a prize at the Ola Ndi Igbo Exhibition, Inventors and Innovators Fair in Nigeria, supported by Power for All

A renewable energy innovator receives a prize at the Ola Ndi Igbo Exhibition, Inventors and Innovators Fair in Nigeria, supported by Power for All

In Sierra Leone, our work to help strengthen the private sector voice continues, using support from DFID to build capacity for the nascent Renewable Energy Association of Sierra Leone (REASL). Specifically, we’re working to create a functional secretariat, identify potential funders, enhance partner relationship with government, and to help them develop a training curriculum.

In India, we have been supporting the India Energy Access Summit (IEAS), the most important sector-focused event in India for the year co-organized by The Climate Group and the Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN). We also worked with Husk Power Systems to announce their $20 million investment from leading global energy companies, with broad international media coverage including Greentech Media, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg, and a host of leading India and African media outlets (including ESI Africa and the Economic Times).