Mini-Grid | Image: FRES

Mini-Grid | Image: FRES

Last week saw the launch of the new Africa Development Bank Green Mini-Grid (GMG) Help Desk to build momentum behind the continent’s clean energy development. The Help Desk—operated by Energy4Impact and INENSUS GmbH as part of the SE4All Green Mini Grid Market Development Program—provides catalytic support to the GMG sector. The launch comes as new research anticipates a 60% reduction in the cost of solar PV mini-grids, and as policy-maker support for GMGs has seen rapid growth around the world—notably in India and Nigeria, the countries with the world’s largest number of people living without electricity.

In Nigeria, insight into the upcoming Draft Mini-Grid Regulation 2016 highlights how the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission views GMGs as a vital opportunity to accelerate energy access for the nation’s 96 million people without energy. The draft policy is expected to enable developers to charge cost-reflective retail tariffs to encourage development. In India, the central government has also come up with a draft mini-grid policy to help scale the sector. Greater support for decentralized renewables is a move the Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) has termed the “only way” to “turn the dream of 'power for all' into a reality”. UPERC is the chief electricity regulator in India's most populous state, which is alone home to 75 million people living in energy poverty.

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Green Mini-Grid Help Desk

The GMG Help Desk aims to catalyze energy access by supporting a pipeline of clean energy projects. According to the African Development Bank: “The GMG Help Desk provides online technical assistance on the myriad of activities important to the business cycle of developing and operating a clean energy mini-grid. The portal provides knowledge products and tutorials on setting up a mini-grid business, site selection, legal and compliance issues, mini-grid business models, technical system design, community and stakeholder engagement, financing, procurement, installation and commissioning, operation and maintenance. The portal includes country-specific information for much of the above. Project developers can apply through the portal for bespoke support on their projects”.

Peter Weston, Director of Investment Advisory at Energy 4 Impact, said: “The Green Mini-Grid Help Desk will boost capacity for developers, provide key information for investors and put quality at the heart of this critical, and rapidly advancing sector. We encourage private enterprises, civil society organizations, utilities, financiers, national governments, development banks--everyone interested in this space--to use the resource and to work with us to accelerate energy access”.