All Policy

The Path to Universal Electricity Access: The Role of Technology, Market Forces and Policy

Technological innovation has always been the wind in the sails of human progress, pushing societies forward and opening up new realms of possibilities. Its transformative role can be seen vividly in the effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), which aims to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy.

Interview with REN21’s Laura Williamson: Energy Crisis Sets Backs Clean Energy Transition

In this episode of the Power for All podcast, our Africa Communication Director, Matuba Mahlatjie talks with Laura Williamson, who is responsible for directing the membership and institutional partnership work at REN21 on their recently launched Renewables 2022 Global Status Report. Laura notes that while there is the ambition and desire for energy transition, it is not being backed by the necessary action and policies to make that shift happen

Road to India's Rural Energy Goals Goes Through its Cities

Living in Madhopur Diara village, across the river Ganga, about 15km from Patna, 12-year-old Soni didn't see a light bulb until she turned eight. For years, she walked through the dusty fog trying to find her way to school.

Decentralized Renewable Energy Trends to Watch in 2022

From a heated African UN COP27 to unlocking of finances for small and medium-sized enterprises, more jobs, and the take-off of electric two-and three-wheelers. These and others are amongst the top trends to watch in 2022 in the clean energy access arena according to our partners. This year, we again reached out to them to share their predictions on what will be hot for the sector in the new year. Their verdict is out. Read on to see what’s in store in what seems a stellar year ahead!

India can lead in ending energy poverty for good: will it seize the opportunity?

Can India's 2070 commitments to net zero at COP 26 result in a leadership role to end energy poverty by 2030? India's 50% renewable energy share by 2030 should not overshadow the opportunity it has in ending energy poverty by increasing investments in decentralized renewable energy sector.

For local manufacturing to create jobs in Africa, governments need to look beyond standard incentives

For countries in sub-Saharan Africa to undertake successful assembly and manufacturing of solar products, there is need to ensure an enabling environment is created to encourage companies and investors to move beyond future commitments. It is critical that countries put in place that prioritise local content in off-grid solar procurement, as otherwise this will likely create supply side constraints in reaching energy access targets

SDG7 Policy Brief: It Starts With Partnership

In support of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum and the High-Level Dialogue on Energy, Power for All contributed to the fourth edition of the SDG7 Policy Briefs, authoring the brief on SDG17: Sustainable Development Through Global Partnerships, and contributing to the briefs on SDG2: Zero Hunger, and SDG8: Economic Growth and Employment. Read and share the full brief on partnership.

Now or never: SDG7 out of reach without decisive action

Despite the remarkable growth in rural electrification over the last decade, the world is falling short of its sustainable energy goals. Lack of access to energy impedes both economic and human development. In an urgent call to action ahead of summits on energy and climate, the co-facilitators of the SDG7 Technical Advisory Group assert that we must radically accelerate the pace of scaling energy access to create a more resilient, equitable and sustainable future.

Accelerating the global energy transition powered by a young workforce

To be successful, the energy transition will require a generational transition as well. New ideas, new leadership, and new opportunities depend on putting young people at the center of shaping the future of energy systems in Africa and Asia. The time for business-as-usual approaches is ending, as we take the first steps toward the next energy generation and a new legacy.

How we count energy poverty is broken, requires new framework

Electricity consumption is a misleading measure of energy poverty and SDG7 is significantly farther away than governments and donors currently think, according to a new IIASA framework that measures energy access based on appliance ownership. The framework also shows affordability is a greater barrier than previously thought.

Is the G20 serious this time about energy access and SDG7?

New data shows that only 1 of 54 countries in Africa is on track to achieve SDG7. What does the G20 need to do to change that?

Repurposing the COVID-19 Response for SDG 7

Power for All was launched 5 years ago today on May 21, 2015. It's a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect. We face great disruption in the world, compounded by an unprecedented health crisis. Our CEO Kristina Skierka writes about Power for All's incredible journey, our successes and struggles, and explores the road ahead for the decentralized renewable energy sector.

How community-based education campaigns can increase electricity connections and improve project economics

Placing community awareness campaigns at the core of rural electrification projects can increase connections by 50%, reduce the cost per connection by 24% and significantly improve the overall economics of the projects. This preliminary conclusion emerged as a result of a Community-Based Energy Education Programme led by Energy 4 Impact in Tanzania between October 2018 and December 2019.

Powering Health across Africa through COVID-19 and a Changing Climate

Daily power shortages at health clinics and hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa are a counteracting force towards universal health coverage. Decentralized renewable energy solutions are more reliable and much quicker to deploy presenting a huge opportunity for electrification of health facilities across developing rural communities.

Research Summary: Understanding Customer Value

60 Decibels' new impact report, drawn from 35,000 customer interviews, offers a deep dive into why off-grid renewable energy matters and how it can help many more of the world’s energy poor.

Research Summary: Africa Energy Future

To achieve SDG 7, the International Energy Agency says Africa needs to triple the average number of people who gain energy access every year, and this requires governments to make a shift to more renewable energy sources.

Coronavirus is not the only global health crisis. Just ask ½ billion people

An estimated 400 million people depend on health facilities that have no access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. A further 100 million are pushed into poverty every year as a result of health care expenditures. Is coronavirus the real threat to global health?

25 years on: has women’s action agenda impacted SDG7?

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration for women's empowerment. Since then, inroads have been made in the energy access sector, but still women represent only about 25% of formal jobs in the decentralized renewable energy sector. What is needed to create an inclusive energy transition between now and 2030?

What does it take to eliminate energy poverty in Africa?

An alternative energy future for Africa is possible and affordable, but only if Governments can make the shift to more renewable energy sources according to a new report from IEA. Here are the key report findings.

SDG7 needs greater South-South cooperation

As the United Nations gathers in New York to deliberate climate action and the sustainable development goals (SDGs), including SDG7, we must ask ourselves: how is the Global South best served?

Top trends for energy access in 2019

Power for All gathers together various predictions and trends that we see unfolding for electricity access and the distributed renewable energy sector in 2019.

2 Keys to Scaling Energy Access

Distributed renewables play an increasingly important role in promoting energy access, already accounting for 6 gigawatts of capacity in the developing world, with an expectation of providing over 60% of new electricity connections in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. New analysis in Escaping the Energy Poverty Trap shows that national governments need two things to succeed in creating markets for distributed renewables: 1) institutional capacity and 2) local accountability mechanisms.

Middle-Income Countries Big Winner from Off-Grid Energy. Who’s Next?

As demonstrated in by new data from IRENA, off-grid renewable electricity has grown tremendously across the world over the last decade, but growth was very uneven. Why was off-grid successful in some places and not others?

Electricity access must be climate resilient

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.

New Markets for Distributed Renewables Opened Up in Nigerian States

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.

Top trends for energy access in 2018

Power for All’s Willie Brent 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.

Data access is critical to achieving electricity access

One of the biggest gaps identified by the decentralized renewable energy (DRE) sector is access to quality data and research. The African Development Bank (AfDB) for instance recently said lack of reliable data is one of the single most critical challenges for private mini-grid investors. Power for All’s Platform for Energy Access Knowledge (PEAK) was created 18 months ago to help bridge that gap – both to provide data needed by the sector, and to help make most effective use of the information which already exists. PEAK addresses the gap in information availability and use by supporting the visibility, discoverability and usability of critical knowledge for the sector through research, our interactive knowledge sharing platform communications and advocacy.

Are mini-grids about to get really boring (and boom)?

Mini-grids have had their fair share of hype in recent years, so a measure of skepticism is warranted, especially when you consider the multiple challenges that have prevented them from scaling: access to affordable capital, uncertain policies, unpredictable consumption patterns, complex community dynamics, currency risk, high transaction costs for investors, etc. In the words of Frank Bergh, vice president at Sigora International: “A start-up utility is still a jumbo shrimp.”

Policy spotlight: Nigeria & India lead on mini-grids

India has roughly 300 million people without access to electricity, and Nigeria about 100 million. Together, the countries account for some 40% of the world’s total unelectrified population, and that percentage is even higher if you just include rural inhabitants. But the countries are proactively working to address the problem, and both have put forward federal mini-grid policies that offer huge potential for scale. The policies define what a mini-grid is, simplify permitting and perhaps most importantly resolve what happens if/when the grid arrives to an area where a mini-grid has been established. The policies are a critical market signal, offering policy certainty that is still needed across much of Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of South Asia. Our sector stakeholders -- governments, developers, civil society groups, financiers -- have much to learn and emulate. For policy-makers with vision, mini-grids can help achieve the SDGs in a more reliable, clean and affordable manner.

With a Few Tweaks, India Can Lead Rural Electrification With Real-Time Data and Smarter Metrics

India’s Draft National Energy Policy, published by NITI Aayog on June 27, proposes to change the national definition of village electrification. The change would only consider a village fully electrified if all households enjoy adequate hours of power supply on a typical day.

“Green Fund” needed to unlock finance and achieve India's clean energy goals

Momentum is building as India moves towards meeting its clean energy targets. Recognizing the tremendous growth potential and opportunity to overhaul India’s energy sector, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy convened policymakers, investors and key clean energy stakeholders at the World Renewable Energy Technology Congress in New Delhi this week to focus on accelerating the market and achieving India’s goals of installing 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power by 2022.

SEforALL launches newly updated 'heat maps': highlighting 20 "high impact" countries facing sustainable energy challenges

Power for All partner SEforAll recently launched an updated interactive addition to their website, called "heat maps". Relying on data from their knowledge partners, the maps graphically highlight countries and regions that are making the most progress, as well as those that are facing the biggest challenges, on major sustainable energy issues.

India: Ground Zero for Scaling Electricity Access and SDG7

For good reason, sub-Saharan Africa gets much of the attention when it comes to electricity access. It is home to more than 600 million energy poor spread across nearly 50 countries. But it is likely going to be India--by itself home to roughly 300 million unelectrified--where decentralized renewable energy (DRE) achieves the scale needed to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) - universal access to modern, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy by 2030.

Partner perspective: It's about access, not electrification

India currently reports 99.4% electrification, yet there are 304 million people who still lack access to electricity according to the recent draft of the National Energy Policy (NEP) issued by the government’s policy thinktank NITI Aayog.

New National Energy Policy Redefines Rural “Electrification”, Sees States Taking Lead

India has put forward a sweeping roadmap for its energy future, including the role it foresees for distributed renewables as it moves to create universal electricity access by 2022, and an energy revolution by 2040, by which time India’s population will be about 1.6 billion, with electricity demand expected to increase 4.5 fold from 2012 levels.

Uttar Pradesh: Opportunity to Scale Energy-as-a-Service Models for Rural Electrification

With a population of 200 million, Uttar Pradesh (UP) is India’s largest state. It is also the state with the largest number of unelectrified people. In the 2011 Census of India, only one in four rural households used electricity as their primary source of lighting, and the 2014–2015 ACCESS survey of energy poverty in rural India revealed that the typical grid-connected household only received nine hours of power supply on an average day.

100,000 reasons not to forget the urban-rural connection in SDG7

Most international focus on electricity poverty is understandably on remote, rural communities, where 900 million people live without power. But as Pollinate Energy just proved in India, cities also face similar challenges. Pollinate, which distributes solar and other life-changing products to vulnerable urban migrants, just announced surpassing its 100,000 customer.

Indian enterprises are banking on solar loans for sustainable energy access to tribal hamlets

Access to credit is an important pre-requisite for facilitating access to energy. Owing to marginal and unpredictable incomes, rural and tribal families cannot afford to pay up-front the cost of basic systems. Over the years, solar products, heavily subsidized by multiple donors, have been installed in villages without adequate servicing and maintenance. The consequences have been disastrous as many of the villages have turned into junkyards of dysfunctional systems.

SELCO: Scaling rural electrification via bank capacity building

The biggest frustration voiced by enterprises looking to deliver last-mile electricity connections to the rural poor is lack of finance. To solve this major roadblock to scale, SELCO Foundation has developed an innovative program that has nothing to do with money. It focuses instead on people and process. Sound boring? Not at all, and it may be a key to fully unlocking the distributed energy transition sweeping the world.

The Human Capital Investment: SDG7 and the Renewable Energy Generation

Solving energy poverty is not a technology issue. With affordable new services, performance improvements, and the ability to pay-as-you-go on mobile money platforms, decentralized renewable energy (DRE) can enable the delivery of basic Tier 1 and Tier 2 energy access.

Claro Energy: scaling solar irrigation in India (and Africa)

India's market for solar pumps for irrigation and drinking water was virtually non-existent in 2011, when Claro Energy was founded. But recent attention from federal and state governments, including subsidies, has created a $700 million annual market that is set to expand rapidly.

Designing Energy Markets of the Future

A Power for All survey of leading decentralized renewable energy (DRE) companies has revealed the practitioner's view of priority policies for market growth. Designed to complement a wider study on national policy and energy access—to be released on March 22—the survey captures insights from 23 DRE companies which, combined, provide pico-PV, solar home system (SHS) or mini-grid services to over 2.7 million households. Asked to rank the importance of policy instruments—national energy policy, financial policy and regulation, and technical regulation—in supporting their local business operations, the results provide front line insight into the policy actions needed to scale DRE and boost energy access. Check out the findings below, and stay tuned for the full report.

Bangladesh: scaling energy access and an IDCOL 2.0 vision for 100% RE

For two decades, Bangladesh has been the testing ground for using distributed solar to achieve energy access at scale. The main vehicle for this remarkable experiment has been the unremarkable-sounding Infrastructure Development Company Ltd. (IDCOL), which—in 2004—started to finance a Bangladesh solar home system (SHS) program using the innovative financial and technology packages I designed and implemented as the Founding Managing Director of Grameen Shakti in 1996. Today, this public-private partnership, backed initially by the World Bank and involving more than 60 NGOs and social enterprises, is anything but ordinary, having lifted up an entire generation.

New energy boss targets access, Africa as World Bank priorities

Riccardo Puliti, the newly appointed head of energy and extractives at the World Bank in charge of investing $8 billion a year, says that Africa and India will be the bank’s main focus, and he will pursue an all-of-the-above approach, with a major focus on natural gas and renewables, while coal will remain off limits.

Campaigning: 5 Levers for Change

Simple information-sharing—about technologies, business models and proven approaches to building the market—can lead to profound shifts in thinking and practice. Power for All’s Director of National Programs, Charlie Miller, has overseen the launch of national campaigns in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe in the past 12 months. In this article, he shares five examples of how awareness-raising has accelerated decentralized renewable energy (DRE) market growth by creating behavior change.

4 E's: Here Come the Utilities

Long filed under “corporate social responsibility” (CSR), 2017 will mark the year when decentralized renewable energy (DRE) attains legitimacy among the world’s leading utilities as a strategic, core business opportunity.

New fund to propel decentralized renewables into mainstream

An industry knows it has gone mainstream when the most risk-averse money—institutional investors such as pension funds, insurance companies, banks, hedge funds, endowments—starts to move in. It looks like that's about to happen for decentralized renewable energy—home and business rooftop solar, mini-grids—in emerging economies like Africa.

Power to the People

Decentralized renewable energy will not achieve its full potential in helping end energy poverty unless two things happen: 1. we measure access through a lens of providing “services” (not just megawatts or number of connections) and 2. we harness the power of the poor themselves to shape their energy future. These are the conclusions from the just released Poor People’s Energy Outlook 2016 from Practical Action, an in-depth look at the needs of energy poor communities (households, businesses and social services).

Regulator: India's rural electrification a fiction; solution must include mini-grids

The chief electricity regulator in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), has said out loud what many have been saying behind closed doors for a while: India's very high-profile campaign to extend its electric grid nationally by 2019 and provide energy access to every Indian, is distorting the reality on the ground. Desh Deepak Verma, whose UP Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) is responsible for serving 200 million people, said claims of rapid advances in electrification, especially in hard to reach rural areas, must come under scrutiny.

SDG7: one year in, are we on the right path?

In a wake up call to national and international decision makers, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) examined the projected progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and found that a 'revolution' is needed to achieve SDG7—clean, affordable, modern energy for all—by 2030. Grading the progress towards SDG7 a ‘D’ (two above a reversal in progress), ODI researchers calculated that the rate of change must be between 3-4 times faster to meet the universal energy access target. A business-as-usual approach will leave a billion people without power in 2030, with the total absolute number of people without electricity in Africa increasing, rather than decreasing.

When Governments Bring Partners Together, Markets Flourish

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who himself grew up studying under the smoky flame of a kerosene light, called energy the golden thread that “connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability", underpinning every one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our recent Power for All report, Decentralized Renewables: The Fast Track to Energy Access, highlighted the opportunity cost of waiting to bring power to communities and businesses through traditional energy infrastructure; centralized grid solutions can take up to a decade to come online. Whilst more research is needed to fully understand the foregone benefits that result from centralized grid-only approaches, pioneering governments aren’t waiting. They are seeing the benefits of rapid deployment of decentralized solutions for schools, hospitals and community buildings. Innovative programs are increasing impact by meeting public sector needs whilst jump starting private sector markets for decentralized renewable energy (DRE) at the same time.

Why is one of the world's richest countries deconstructing its grid?

Critics of "off-grid", or decentralized, energy like to say it is not "real" power. These critics prefer centralized energy solutions. But this preference is often both mis-guided and out-dated, especially as the global community attempts to achieve universal energy access by 2030 - i.e. provide electricity for the first time to 1.1 billion people worldwide. Most of those people are poor, and most live in remote areas. How - and when - they get electricity has massive implications - on climate impact, on economic development, on national security, on quality of life and also on energy infrastructure resilience and sustainability.

"New Deal" for Energy in Africa a Big Deal for Off-Grid

During the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, unveiled details of a hugely ambitious “New Deal for Energy in Africa”, which, if fully implemented, has the potential to fundamentally reshape the continent. The New Deal brings together a “transformative partnership”, including the Africa Energy Leaders Group, the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa, SE4All, Power Africa and the U.K.’s Energy Africa Campaign. Between now and 2025 it aims to use public-private partnerships for innovative financing to add 205 million more connections to the electricity infrastructure. Of that number, 130 million will be on-grid connections, a 160% increase, while 75 million will be off-grid connections—a stunning 20 fold increase from today. It also envisions an increase in access to clean cooking for 130 million households.

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