With more than 1 billion people around the world without access to electricity and the goal to achieve universal access by 2030, new cost effective and functional solutions that can be easily deployed in often remote, hard to reach or harsh environments are needed. [Engerati-Towards Sustainable Energy For All By 2030]
A step in this direction has occurred with the launch of a new initiative by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) at an international business roundtable in Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this month.
Partnership on microgrids
The Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi): Microgrids brings together South African utility Eskom and companies including ABB, Alstom, EDF, Engie, First Solar and Schneider Electric, which will drive forward a programme to develop and deploy microgrids to communities where energy supply can be either erratic or non-existent.
Outcomes of the initiative are expected to include action plans and firm policy recommendations designed to enable accelerated and scaled-up deployment of low-carbon microgrid solutions.
“We’re proud to launch this new Microgrids work stream as part of the LCTPi. Ahead of the UN climate conference in Paris this year, we are working with the world’s most forward-thinking companies to develop new and innovative low carbon solutions that can address the climate challenge,” commented WBCSD president and CEO Peter Bakker.
The LCTPi is focused on testing high-impact plans to develop and deploy low-carbon technologies. Other programmes currently underway, among others, are on renewables, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency in buildings and low carbon transport fuels.
Building on SE4All
This new partnership is to be welcomed, bringing into the universal access challenge the larger energy companies, with their global expertise and experience and strong R&D capabilities.
It will have the work of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative’s Practitioner Network mini-grid working group to build on. In the Practitioner Network’s 2012 report mini- and microgrids were identified as an area of particular importance, with the potential to account for more than 40% of the off-grid electricity requirements by 2030.
Among the areas identified as important to advancing micro- and mini-grids and other activities towards the effective delivery of energy services were improving policy and regulatory frameworks, facilitating finance and improving standards and testing.
The report also highlighted the need for private sector participation. Among the Practitioner Network’s directory of funding opportunities, more than 35 companies were listed as offering mini- and microgrid solutions.
Mini-grid experience from India
There is also much expertise that can be built on and for example, considerable experience of mini-grids has been gained in countries such as India, where they have been deployed for electrification since the mid-1990s. [Engerati-Mini-grids – Lessons From India]
In its 2014 Africa Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast the development of between 100,000 and 200,000 mini-grids in sub-Saharan Africa by 2040. [Engerati-Mini-grids To Power Africa’s Rural Electrification]