Minigrids and 100% access

2014 marks the decade of Sustainable Energy for All. Given that 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity and a further, 2.6 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating (IEA, World Energy Outlook 2013), we have our work cut out for us if we are to meet the goal of 100% access.

One way to help meet energy access needs is through mini-grids. Mini-grids are power solutions for isolated sites, such as islands and towns in remote mountainous or forested areas, where the grid cannot easily reach and where “stand-alone” power systems are not technically or economically viable. They are different from stand-alone solar PV or wind systems because they are larger in capacity (up to 1 MW), serve entire communities through distribution networks (instead of individual sites), and often incorporate a number of technologies (e.g., hybrid generator-wind-PV systems). They are expandable and can be managed by community groups or small businesses. Continue reading “Minigrids and 100% access”

Renewable Energy Contributers Needed!

REN21’s December newsletter is now available. In it you can find out what is happening at REN21 as well as new initiatives, publication and upcoming event posted by its members. REN21 is also collecting data for its Renewables Global Status Report. The 2014 report will also feature a chapter on distributed renewable energy in developing countries. If you are interested in submitting data for your country or region please contact us at:

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Climate Change Showdown.

REN21 is gearing up for its participation at the climate change talks in Warsaw.  While climate is not a central theme to REN21’s work, renewables should be a central element of any climate action plan.

Despite tremendous growth in renewable energy witnessed over the last decade, fossil fuels continue to be a destructive force on our environment and the chief contributor to global climate change. Fossil fuel combustion currently accounts for nearly 70 percent of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, two-thirds of which come from the energy sector. Although renewables accounted for 19 percent of global energy consumption in 2011, new estimates for CO2 emissions from traditional fossil fuels reveal a 1.4 percent increase, resulting in a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt). Continue reading “Climate Change Showdown.”

Entrepreneurial-minded Investors Needed!

The last time I wrote I talked about a renewable investment meeting that I attended in Accra. That meeting has stayed with me because of the frustrating disconnect between viable energy options and monies available. The finance people that I spoke with cited that many commercial institutions don’t see distributed energy as bankable yet. But this is not true; many business models are quite sustainable. It’s more a question of belief. Most financiers are quite conservative. They are not comfortable in this new market (renewable, decentralised energy provision) with a new segment of the population (large numbers of customers with extremely low purchasing power) and a new business model (pay-as-you go schemes, such as progressive purchase models, use of scratch cards etc.) But the market is there as witnessed by the amount of money low-income households are willing to spend on energy services (candles, kerosene, diesel) and amenities like airtime for cellular phones. Continue reading “Entrepreneurial-minded Investors Needed!”

Investment in West Africa – Renewables on the rise…

flag of the Economic Community of West African...
flag of the Economic Community of West African States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

REN21 recently participated at the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Investment Week in Accra, Ghana. Coordinated by ECREEE (the ECOWAS Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) this conference celebrated the second year of ECREEE’s RE Investment Initiative. This initiative works to reduce one of the main bottlenecks in region—the mobilisation of investments for RE infrastructure projects. Perhaps the most interesting part of the conference was the ten investor-ready clean energy projects from around the region. The range of project was impressive. Interested in a wave powered desalinisation plant in Cape Verde? How about pay-as-you-go solar technology in Nigeria or the commercialisation of biomass in Senegal? Regardless of geographic or technical preference it is clear that there is a real entrepreneurial drive in West Africa to increase energy access. Securing the necessary financing however still remains a problem. The financial environment is still too risky for most investors and the returns too low. However as presentation and discussions illustrated governments and development banks are stepping into the void; creative solutions are beginning to emerge. It will be interesting to see one year on how well these partnerships are able to fill this important funding gap.

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Energy Access for All

Access to energy services is a key development priority. However how a service is accessed and by whom is equally as important. Gender is often the forgotten component in the energy equation.

Men and women typically have different roles in the home and the community, which means that how energy is used varies. For example, energy is used for lighting, cooking, communication (television, radio, cell phones), ironing, heating, cooling, and cottage industry applications such as brewing. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out which tasks fall predominately to women……

Where energy services are limited women’s access—in many regions of the world—is often biomass-based and physically demanding: think about gathering firewood needed for cooking and heating. Moreover the results of these poor energy sources are often unhealthy—contributing to indoor air pollution, burns and injuries or are inferior in energy quality as seen with candles, kerosene or weak lamps for lighting. Continue reading “Energy Access for All”

Staying Up-to-date on Renewables

REN21 has just issued its September newsletter. In it you can find out what is happening at REN21 as well as new initiatives, publications and upcoming events posted by its members. If you are interested in finding out about the status of renewables in your region, don’t miss our current webinar series which runs now until early November. To find out more about these webinars or other happenings, read our newsletter. Stay informed!