Mini-grids have Potential to Meet Energy Needs of 50% of World’s Rural Population


minigrid cover

Progress on extending the electricity grid in many countries has remained slow because of high costs of grid-extension and limited utility/state budgets for electrification. Mini-grids provide an affordable and cost-effective option to expand crucial electricity services.

EUEI PDF, REN21 and ARE have teamed up to develop a publication to help policy makers navigate the mini-grid policy design process. The publication specifically focuses on Africa.

Putting in place the right policy for mini-grid deployment requires considerable effort but can yield significant improvements in electricity access rates as examples from Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania illustrate.

Mini-grid Policy Toolkit: Policy and Business Frameworks for Successful Minigrid Roll-outs documents, step-by-step, the basics of rural electrification through the use of mini-grids. The toolkit provides information on mini-grid operator models; the economics of mini-grids; necessary policy and regulations needed for successful implementation.

Mini-grids can be powered with renewable energy sources, diesel or a hybrid of both. “Mini-grid based electrification powered with renewables will accelerate considerably needed energy access,” says Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21. “The use of renewable energy sources such as the sun, wind, water or biomass provides the added advantage of avoiding fuel security issues associated with price fluctuations and uncertainty over fuel supply.”

You can download the toolkit here.

Was the Brazilian World Cup a green event?

Last Sunday was a great moment for the German football nation. They walked out of the Marcanã Stadium as the new Champion of the world. And I might be biased as I am German, but this was an impressive sporting moment.

And yet, one question remains to be answered; an event like this – that is able to excite, astonish and amaze billions of people all over the globe – is how sustainable and green? It was announced to be the greenest FIFA world cup ever.

The World Cup in Germany 2006 was already setting some examples how to be carbon neutral: tickets for matches could be used for public transportation; some stadiums had solar power, rainwater collection cisterns and free bicycle parking. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics environmental technologies were advanced and national environment reforms sped up. And the 2012 London Olympics were generally praised for strengthening sustainability benchmarks with strategies that could be used as an example for future mega-events like the World Cup.

Some main facts:

– FIFA announced its strategy for Brazil at RIO+20 including LEED green buildings certification for stadiums, Brazil-based carbon offsets, recycling and water conservation measures.

– FIFA celebrated solar panels, water conversation and waste reduction features in São Paulo and at Rio’s Maracanã.

– Yingli Solar was the first solar sponsor of the World Cup and it is also the largest solar company of the world. It already started their sponsorship during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Some things they haven’t achieved:

– The deadline for completing the first line of a monorail between São Paulo suburbs and the airport, to convey visitors smoothly while reducing pollution and traffic congestion, was pushed back due to construction delays. Further lines are still being planned, but there is no further information given when this will happen.

– The stadium in Manaus features the latest energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. Plans for powering the stadium through solar energy were abandon completely.

Comparing this to of what happened 2010 in South Africa shows that back then a total of 2,753,250 tonnes of CO2 equivalent were emitted. And looking at the table below from Ernst & Young’s comprehensive analysis one thing becomes clear: almost 70% of the 2010 World Cup emissions were from international transportation.

According to the Guardian total emissions “is roughly equivalent to 6,000 space shuttle fights, three quiet years for Mount Etna, or 20 cheeseburgers for every man, woman and child in the UK.”


Ernst and young sustainable world cup


There are no accurate numbers available for the current Cup, but despite their Sustainability Strategy, Brazil witnessed increased GHG emissions, environmental degradation, habitat loss and water pollution as major impacts of the World Cup to one of the richest biodiversity globally. And everyone remembers the pictures of demonstrations against the Cup beforehand.

However! For whatever reason, the least important part of our modern society is in fact able to attract the biggest attention. People listen to the sport industry, their events and their marketing like to hardly anything else. Sport can influence the public opinion and even governments (see Brazilian Budweiser Bill). So it is important that such events proclaim their thirst to become greener and sustainable – even if it is a long way to take.

Although there is no direct correlation, at the same time when the World Cup was occupying the stage of attention all over the world, the biggest rooftop solar farm in Latin America was unveiled in Brazil. Yes, they have nothing in common other than the sustainable movement and clean energy is taking over.

Ideal, a solar-certification company, commented on this milestone that their “idea is to show the potential and the technical and economic viability of solar energy in urban areas throughout Latin America, and the design of the model … will convince government and investors in this technology”.

More information:

Sustainable Brazil – Ernst & Young

Concentrated Solar Power as an Alternative to Natural Gas

It seems that our energy landscape has been changing drastically since the US found new natural gas reserves on their ground. Since then the pros and cons of fracking have kept the world in suspense and we witnessed a shift in international political relations between the big gas providers and consumers. Renewable energies seem to have been pushed back to the second row.

Gas coming out from water-taps, contaminated ground water and other terrifying stories seem to come in hand in hand with the problems of fracking. And yet countries like the US stick to it and fracking seems to have a promising career even in Europe. But is this really the only alternative if we want to continue the path of a climate neutral and sustainable green economy? I hope not. At least for Europe and South Africa is hope for alternatives.

So the latest findings published in the Nature Climate Change journal come about the right time and the answer they provide is: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).  Or if we want to be a little more modest: one of the answers, in some of the regions.

A research group from IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) “Mitigation of Air pollution and Greenhouse Gases Programme” had a closer look at the benefits and potentials of CSP as a large-scale energy production system in four regions of the world: the USA, the Mediterranean basin, Kalahari Desert in South Africa and India.

But what exactly is concentrated solar power? As opposed to solar PV panel where solar energy is directly converted into electricity, concentrated solar power plants first concentrate solar energy to heat up a liquid that drives turbines for electricity production. It does not have to be used immediately as it implies that the collected energy can be stored as heat and turned into electricity at any given time. To secure access to electricity reliably the network of concentrated solar power plants has to be coordinated and set-up efficiently to avoid disruptions by bad weather.

It is remarkable that such CSP plants could produce in the Mediterranean region 70%-80% of the electricity demand to the same price as gas-driven power plants. It is more or last the same share and security of supply as current nuclear power plants. The same is true for CSP in the Northern African context such as the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. India and the US remain more problematic, but given the vast area and the rapid development of technologies, this might change in the near future.

Whichever way you look at it, one things becomes clear:

“Solar energy systems can satisfy much more of our hunger for electricity, at not much more cost than what we currently have.”

Read more:




Google Science Fair spotlights renewable energy innovations from young scientists

You may remember hearing about Ann Makosinski from Victoria, Canada who won the 15-16 Age Category prize in the Google Science Fair in 2013. She developed a flashlight powered solely from the heat of the human hand, eliminating the need for batteries. Her design features the use of Pelletier tiles which produce energy when heated on one side and cooled on the other, which gives the flashlight a hollow design to allow for a cooling air current under the surface of the device. Makosinski’s innovative invention provides a potential solution for providing affordable renewable lighting in the developing world, especially in emergency situations.

This year, the first round of finalists won’t be announced until June 26th, but 15 year old applicant Angelo Casimiro from the Philippines is already making a buzz, especially in the renewable energy scene. He invented a pair of shoes that produce enough energy just from walking to charge small battery-operated devices such as a smartphone. With the use of mobile phones expanding rapidly throughout developing countries including areas with poor energy access, a potential market may exist among some of the world’s poorest citizens. Providing these electricity-generating shoes at an affordable price, however, may be Casimiro’s next big challenge.

With such bright minds leading the next generation, it certainly gives hope for the future!

Find out more about the Google Science Fair here.

REN21 Renewables 2014 Global Status Report is now available!


image006 REN21 is pleased to announce that the Renewables 2014 Global Status Report is now available!   

Find out what made 2013 another record year for renewables. Learn what the total global operating capacity of solar PV was and just how much wind power capacity came into operation.  Discover where the greatest number of additions to electric generating capacity occurred in 2013 and who the new leaders in renewable energy deployment are.


Consult the full report as well as the Key Findings at:




Calling all Renewable Energy Experts!

The second review period for REN21’s 2014 Global Status Report will begin this Friday April 4th and will run until Wednesday April 16th. This is an open peer review process; your feedback, as well as additional information that you may have, is welcome and will help to strengthen the quality of the Global Status Report.

The upcoming review round will focus on:
• Global Market Overview – cross-cutting developments and trends in renewable energy in 2013
• Market & Industry Trends by Technology (including bio-energy, geothermal power & heat; hydropower; ocean energy; solar PV; CSP; solar thermal heating & cooling; and wind power).
• Investment Trends
• Sidebars on related topics

To participate, please sign up to the REN21+ Online Review Tool at (Detailed instruction are listed below).

Don’t be shy: review all the sections or simply one or two!


STEP 1: Go to
STEP 2: Create a new account (a simple 2-step process)

Check your email folder for confirmation of registration

STEP 3: Go to the Groups Tab and click on: GSR Group Contributors & Reviewers
STEP 4: Once in the GSR Contributors & Reviewers Group, go the Documents to Review header and select GSR 2014 Review Draft 2
STEP 5: The GSR draft will open in a new window where you can make your in-line comments

Should you have any problems please email us at:

You can view a short (2/12 minute) step-by-step video tutorial on how to use the review tool:
(Please note you can only access this video once you are signed into REN21+.)