Minigrids - A High Impact Technology For Rural Electrification

Leading public and private sector organizations are partnering to accelerate the deployment of clean energy minigrids.
Published: Fri 29 Aug 2014

Mini- (micro-)grids are expected to be the major contributor to future electrification efforts, providing more than 40% of the generation requirements to bring modern energy services to the 1.3 billion people currently lacking access globally.

To support this, under the Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) framework public and private sector organizations globally have set up the High Impact Opportunity (HIO) on Clean Energy Mini-grids. In this context minigrids refer to village, town or district scale systems, either unconnected to, or able to operate autonomously from, the main electrical grid.

Barriers to minigrids

The objective of the HIO is to address the barriers to minigrids, with a view to increasing the rate of deployment and market transformation impact. These barriers include inadequate regulation, policy gaps or uncertainty; early stage market fragmentation and unmade linkages; capacity issues and lack of standardization; lack of proven commercial business models; and lack of access to affordable longer term finance.

The HIO will pursue the following five goals:

● Support integration of clean energy minigrids within national and international energy plans and regulations

● Increase coordination and interaction in the minigrids sector, drawing in new partners, enabling increased partnerships, joint ventures and cross-sectoral projects

● Create agreement and knowledge of key concepts, techniques, technologies and approaches, supporting improved performance across the clean energy minigrids sector

● Increase development and testing of business models through High Impact Initiatives (HIIs), and increase visibility of outcomes via transparent evaluation and reporting

● Increase visibility and recognition of clean energy minigrids as a viable electrification approach with a view to increasing the availability of private and public financing.

During the first year, the HIO activities will be guided by a coordination group including Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), EU Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEI PDF), United Nations Foundation, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the SE4All Global Facilitation Team.

A secretariat for the HIO is being established by the United Nations Foundation and ARE.

Doubling the renewable energy share

The United Nations SE4ALL initiative was established with the triple goals by 2030 of achieving universal access, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency (from the 2010 level), and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

In order to support these goals the decade 2014-2024 has been named by the United Nations as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. [Engerati-2014 – Launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All]

The greatest need for electrification is in sub-Saharan Africa, where almost 70% of the continent’s population, and almost half of those globally, currently lack access. There partnerships are urgently being sought to address energy sector development. [Engerati-Securing Sub-Saharan Africa’s Energy Future An Agenda for Transformational Impact]

Further reading

SE4ALL: Clean Energy Mini-grids High Impact Opportunity

Engerati-Time for Africa’s Projects to Take the Next Step