Given the speed and scale with which climate impacts are being felt around the globe, emerging economies—or any economy for that matter—no longer have the luxury of planning for their energy systems as though climate change doesn’t matter and won’t impact it in fundamental ways. Current and future climate change impacts are now part and parcel of electricity system management, and must be central to high-level discussions starting next month — including at the Global Climate Action Summit and the Climate Vulnerable Forum Summit. Fortunately, the global energy sector is on the cusp of a transformation not seen since the Industrial Revolution. This revolution in energy technology extends far beyond the astonishing cost declines of renewable energy in the past decade to an emerging global power system driven by dramatic innovation and disruption in both hardware and software. This revolution will be characterized by large-scale deployment of modular, decentralized, cleaner, and more affordable energy generation, storage and local control capabilities, combined with a dizzying array of new technologies; the full impacts of which are only beginning to be grasped. Blockchain, mobile money, transactive energy, smart grids, virtual power plants, the internet of things, all stand to reshape how we generate, consume, and transact energy in as of yet untold ways. Clean Energy microgrids are at the center of this revolution. At the same time, the dramatically accelerating impacts of climate change and its attendant increases in natural disasters and extreme weather events is reshaping how governments and the private sector think about energy system development and evolution. For example, hydropower makes up 95 percent of Zambia’s power supply, but due to El Nino in 2016, water levels dropped to 13 percent of their usual capacity, resulting in widespread power outages. The City of Los Angeles in California experienced a scorching heat wave just last month, spiking energy demand for cooling so much higher than usual that the grid crashed, and stayed crashed for days, leaving tens of thousands of residents without power. And of course, devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria decimated the island of Puerto Rico’s electricity infrastructure in 2017, and left a crippled energy system for more than a year, and as a result, a crippled economy and a population in despair. Micro-grids are a key element of effective climate change resilience and decarbonization strategies. Deployment of behind-the-meter distributed generation and storage that is capable of operating autonomously in the event of a natural disaster through a micro-grid controller can offer not just continuous power in the event of significant grid disruption or outage, but important disaster response services and critical infrastructure protection, such as hospitals and water treatment facilities. Micro-grids can also provide load and demand curve management, frequency regulation, and enhancement of everyday operations of the grid. While not a panacea, they are a critical part of the cure. Micro-grids offer vitally important climate mitigation, resilience and energy access services that are uniquely designed to meet the needs of the communities they serve. They have vital roles to play in both grid-tied and grid-integrated mitigation and climate resilience applications, as well as rural electrification and energy access strategies. The hub and spoke model of fossil fuel-based generation and transmission that has driven the substantial economic growth in the developed world, now looks anachronistic at best and a pledge to lock in decades of high-emitting, inefficient, expensive and climate-vulnerable energy infrastructure at worst. Micro-grids will underpin the energy technology revolution and enable the new, decentralized energy systems of tomorrow to function. They offer a unique opportunity for emerging economies to leapfrog the failing energy strategies of the 20th Century and deploy the clean, climate-resilient, reliable and affordable energy systems of the future. This promise is in reach, but will require a fundamental rethinking of traditional energy system development and a high degree of collaboration across governments, international donor countries and the private sector to mobilize the risk capital needed to drive wide-scale deployment. African and Asian governments have the opportunity to drive innovation and large-scale deployment of micro-grids as a 21st Century energy solution and lead the world. The Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco next month is the ideal location to consider new opportunities for public-private collaboration and gives leading philanthropies and donors a forum to step up and support these efforts.
For countries with a federal government, policy implementation and change frequently happen at the state level. Nigeria, with 36 states, is no exception. As part of the Scaling Off Grid Energy (SOGE) project, Power for All has kicked off a 6-part workshop series in low energy access states to ensure that decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions are fully baked in to local electrification plans.
Power for All’s willie brent 白維 attended the recent GOGLA Global Off-Grid Solar Forum, to hear the latest on the distributed solar revolution. Besides a new report that said the sector has already impacted 360 million lives and would reach $8 billion in revenue by 2022, here are some other takeaways.
Energy and Environment Partnership Trust Fund (EEP Africa) has financed 43 minigrid projects in 10 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. Their recently published report Opportunities and Challenges in the Mini-grid Sector in Africa draws lessons from the EEP Africa portfolio and explains that infrastructure financing and regulatory environments are the main ‘make-or-break’ contributors to mini-grid bankability.
Private utilities called mini-grids have the potential to bring access to electricity to 450 million people by 2030, helping to end energy poverty while also laying the foundation for rural economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa and many others regions and countries.
With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, Power for All organized an intimate gathering of energy access leaders in July. At the event were representatives of African, Asian and European utilities and government agencies (energy ministries, rural electrification agencies, etc), private sector companies engaged in residential solar and mini-grids, and funders and researchers, all keen to begin a discussion on the future of power utilities in low energy access countries, and to explore ways to pilot new models of electricity services that integrate centralized and decentralized solutions.
SEforAll Africa hub in conjunction with the African Development Bank recently published a Mini-Grid Market Opportunity Assessment of Cameroon as part of the Green Mini-Grid Market Development Programme (GMG MDP) document series.
The Africa’s Pulse biannual report by The World Bank focuses on electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa. It looks at recent innovations in access delivery and governance, and how different approaches impact economic development.
To improve lender confidence and increase project financial attractiveness, micro-grid developers should reduce the risks of non-steady cash flows through four short-term actionable strategies
Practical Action’s PPEO 2017 focuses on how to finance people-driven energy access solutions. Through case studies from Bangladesh, Kenya and Togo, Practical Action highlights that we already have most of the tools needed to finance a bottom-up renewable revolution.
DRE can help communities to adapt to a fast changing global climate and become more resilient in the face of such disasters. Brazil and Zambia--both countries that rely heavily on large hydropower--experienced constraints on electricity supply due to severe droughts in 2015. The problem is not restricted to hydropower since thermal-electric power plants also consume large amounts of water for generation.
Fact Sheet Booklet: Powering the SDGs Generated by PEAK, a new booklet brings together the clearest data points on the Energy Access Dividend, looking at the direct relationship between decentralized energy access and some of the most critical SDGs.