Renewable mini-grid trade group launches in Africa

17Apr 2018
The Guardian
Renewable mini-grid trade group launches in Africa

The world's first trade group dedicated to the mini-grid industry was launched last week in Africa.

The Africa Mini-grid Developers Association (AMDA) currently has chapters in Kenya and Tanzania, and 11 members, including start-ups and utilities, and aims to become a pan-African platform.

It is supported by the Shell Foundation, the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development (DfID). AMDA is setting up its next chapter in Nigeria, which will add seven local developers.

One of the organisation's near-term goals is to mobilise financing for the sector. It plans to work with donors, governments and other stakeholders to develop a smart Results Based Financing (RBF) fund to help the wider adoption of mini-grids, and will seek to unlock lower-cost debt capital. The objectives also include establishing national grid integration frameworks that are inclusive of mini-grids.

"AMDA’s vision is to see 100 per cent of Africa electrified before 2030, and this will require utilities to incorporate new and innovative technologies, with mini-grids playing a central role," said AMDA's Global Coordinator Jessica Stephens.

"Mini-grids can deliver more connections per dollar, can be deployed more rapidly than traditional grid infrastructure and play an important role in stimulating local economic opportunities and creating jobs," Stephens added.

AMDA's member companies in Kenya and Tanzania have built 430 km (267 miles) of transmission lines and renewable generation that serve more than 11,000 users, including homes, schools, health clinics, micro-enterprise and agriculture.

Global renewable power production increased by 6.3 per cent on the year in 2017, thanks mainly to wind, solar and hydropower capacity additions and green sources covered 25 per cent of the world's power demand.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report that the growth rate for renewables was the highest among all energy sources last year.

Overall, global demand was up 2.1 per cent in 2017, more than twice the rate of growth in 2016, mainly pushed by China and India. Most of the increase in demand was covered by oil, gas and coal generation, while renewables “made impressive strides,” said Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director.

The rise in renewables was fuelled by “unprecedented growth” in China and the US, which accounted for around 50 per cent of the increase in power production. Electricity from renewable energy sources in the European Union (EU) rose by eight per cent and by six per cent in Japan and India.

By technology, wind and photovoltaic (PV) power contributed the most to growth in the year with shares of 36 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively. For solar in particular, China was the driving force on that market with over 50 GW of new capacity additions.

Hydropower accounted for 22 per cent of the overall increase in the global renewables output, while bioenergy had a 12 per cent share. According to the IEA’s figures, biofuels production climbed by just two per cent last year due to a longer-term downward trend in new production capacity investment.

The higher energy demand in 2017, coupled with a slowdown in energy efficiency improvements, resulted in a 1.4 per cent increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission levels to a historical high of 32.5 gigatonnes. The growth comes after three years of flat emissions.

EIA said that most major economies saw emissions increase, but the US, the UK Mexico and Japan achieved lower emissions. The biggest drop was observed in the US on the back of higher renewables deployment.