The business case for off-grid renewables as a means to expand rural electricity access keeps growing stronger, thanks to steady cost reductions and technological innovation. Yet further accelerating the growth of either mini-grid or stand-alone solutions will depend also on stable policies and regulations, along with dedicated funds and de-risking instruments for renewables.
Technology and business innovation could cut the costs of renewable power generation for mini-grids by 60% in 20 years, according to this conference report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Yet around 600 million people are still expected to lack electricity access in 2040, despite international goals to ensure sustainable energy for all.
The third International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC), held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016, identified eight priorities:
- Mainstreaming off-grid renewable energy in national rural electrification strategies;
- Creating an ecosystem to accelerate deployment;
- Designing dedicated policies and regulations;
- Unlocking capital for energy access;
- Identifying the right business models for deploying off-grid renewables;
- Innovating to improve accessibility, reliability and range of electricity services;
- Strengthening sustainable energy access and maximising benefits;
- Harnessing the cross-sector development impact of off-grid renewables.
In order to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015, off-grid solutions must be designed in ways that not just deliver energy, but improve people’s lives.