April 4, 2017 — A groundbreaking report released today by Power for All identifies the five most important national energy policies needed to end electricity poverty for approximately 1 billion rural poor (mostly living in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia), and outlines the steps governments can take to implement those policies, in particular the integration of decentralized renewable (also known as distributed or “off-grid”) solutions into energy infrastructure planning and build-out.

The report centers on new quantitative and qualitative analysis from the Platform for Energy Access Knowledge (PEAK)—a joint project between the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), University of California, Berkeley and the Power for All campaign. PEAK examined the policies of five high-growth decentralized renewable energy (DRE) markets—India and Bangladesh in Asia, and Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia in Africa—to identify trends in energy policy that will help other countries replicate success.

In order to measure progress, the report also unveils an Energy Access Target Tracker (EATT), which for the first time indexes the 48 energy-poorest countries and their national energy access targets, and determines which are best prepared to achieve universal electrification and which are not. Currently, almost two-thirds of the countries lack a rural energy access target. The 48 countries together account for 540 million rural unelectrified, more than half of the global total.

A 2016 report by Power for All concluded that ending energy poverty by 2030—the focus of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7—can only be achieved for the rural poor by accelerating investment in decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions such as mini-grids and rooftop solar. The new report, titled “Decentralized Renewables: From Promise to Progress”, builds on those findings, with a focus on the need for policy leadership alongside increased access to finance. The analysis of the high-growth DRE markets identified key policy levers that have resulted in success. Those five policies are:

  • Reduction of import duties and tariffs on DRE related products

  • Support for the availability of local finance through loans and grants and microfinance

  • Establishment of energy access targets or national commitments to electrification

  • Establishment of rural electrification plans or programs that incorporate DRE

  • Technical regulation through established licensing procedures for mini-grid operators and through adoption of quality standards for products and services

But more than just identifying what policies are behind rapid rural energy access, the new report also addresses how to get there, by making key three recommendations on policy implementation and process, including:

  • Setting the target: include decentralized renewables in national policies and rural electrification plans

  • Ending the implementation gap: institute decentralized energy in integrated energy planning so that grid extension, mini-grids, and standalone systems are given equal consideration

  • Instituting collaborative policy design: DRE multi-stakeholder-led policy-making that includes government, private sector, funding and civil society actors

“Decentralized renewable energy is the key to unlocking SDG 7, and this report not only identifies the policies necessary to jumpstart that process, but for the first time outlines specific actions that help national governments successfully implement these policies,” said Rebekah Shirley, Power for All research director and co-author of the new report. “Energy access is possible, but only with political will and leadership at the national level.”

Turning its Call to Action into tangible results, Power for All recently hosted multi-stakeholder meetings in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where governments, civil society and the private sector responded with clear commitments to accelerate energy access via DRE.

Mohammed Wasaram, managing director of Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) pledged that his organization would “continue to uphold its mandate to ensure the facilitation of entry of new market participants and continued development of local rural electrification ventures. REA recognizes the efforts of the Power for All initiative and commends them for serving as an organized focal point for such market participants in renewable energy and will continue to support such initiatives.”