Off-grid renewable energy promises speedy electrification for a huge world sector of communities that now lack power or suffer from intermittent supply.
Of the 1.3 billion world citizens with sketchy or no electric power in their lives, fully 95% live in Africa or Asia. In Accra, Ghana, in November 2012, the first international off-grid renewable energy conference enabled initial hands-on collaboration of key energy stakeholders. This early, it has already borne fruit in Africa’s practical experience.At the second off-grid renewable meeting, which is taking place now in Manila, Salvatore Vinci, a policy advisor with the International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference, crystallized the key messages from Ghana in a targeted audiovisual presentation.
The International Renewable Energy Agency partnered with ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the Alliance for Rural Electrification in 2012 to host the Accra talks. The Ghana conference brought together over 350 participants from 80 countries, including dozens of representatives from rural electrification agencies and agencies in charge of renewable energy development. Speakers represented both public and private sectors. The sessions featured successful rural electrification initiatives from different regions worldwide.
Expert presentations and roundtable discussions during the first IOREC confirmed that off-grid renewable energy systems—both stand-alones and mini-grids—can play a significant role in achieving universal electricity access. In recognition of this, development needs to be integrated into mainstream rural electrification strategies.
Several successful deployment approaches exist, but there is a need to scale up, says Vinci. What’s required is a shift from the prevalent project-by-project approach to one that focuses on creation of a sustainable environment. Involvement of the private sector, in particular of local enterprises, will be instrumental in extending electricity access.
The 2012 convocation concluded that off-grid renewable energy technologies produce striking synergies with other sectors critical for human development. They play an important role in improving access to water supply, for example, and also extend healthcare and telecommunication services in rural areas.
The Ghana outcomes have also been published in IRENA’s 2012 report, IOREC 2012: Key Findings and Recommendations.
*Full Disclosure: IRENA is covering the cost of my flight to and accommodation in Manila.