Scaling Access to Energy through Women Entrepreneurship

Marcus Wiemann, Executive Director, ARE

Untapping Women's Access to Renewable Energy

Felice Zaccheo, Head of Unit for Sustainable Energy & Climate Change European Commission, Directorate General for International Cooperation & Development

Energy poverty affects approximately 1.2 billion people worldwide; of those, women disproportionately suffer the effects of energy poverty due to their perceived role as caretakers of the family. In developing countries, together with their children, women are the first victims of gas and particles' exposure because of inefficient cookstoves. Being responsible for wood collection and housekeeping tasks, women are also less available to engage in educational and income generating activities.

Read more

Tackling the barriers that women faces in developing countries when it comes to engaging in the sustainable energy sector is how the European Union improves women’s health, well-being of their families and ensure their economic empowerment. This we see in many of the projects implemented in partner countries on sustainable energy.

One example from Tanzania tells the story of Mama Shigella. In 1997, Mama Shigella produced her first cooking stove which consumed less wood fuel. After receiving training through the EU funded project: “Developing Energy Enterprises Project” East Africa (DEEP), Mama Shigella made improvements to the cooking stove and developed a business plan to scale up the production.  Today, Mama Shigella produces up to seven improved cooking stoves per day and sells on average more than 60 pieces per month. Her business development stimulated the market and enabled her to invest in her children's proper education and to improve her family's well-being.

The European Union’s commitment to women’s economic and social empowerment is reaffirmed in the Gender Action Plan II (GAP 2016-20) and accordingly, the European Union continues to work on engendering projects and mainstreaming gender in all actions.

Lately, under the "Women and Sustainable energy initiative" the European Union concluded a support of EUR 18 million to three projects, for a period of five years, that foster women's entrepreneurship in the sustainable energy sector, increase their technical and business skills in the field and improve the general environment for women through political advocacy and awareness raising. Led by Barefoot Power, Christian Aid and Fundacion Plan International in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Honduras, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, these projects will also contribute in achieving SDG5 and SDG 7 by addressing gender inequalities and by promoting and stimulating the market for sustainable energy uses and products.

Since energy and gender equality are key drivers for sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as private sector development, reinforcing the role of women in the energy sector is the right way forward for a lasting social, economic and environmental impact.


Women’s Lives Transforming Under the START Africa Initiative

START Africa stands for Sustainable Transformation of Africa with Renewable Technologies. It was founded in Zimbabwe by renewable energy engineer Trust Chifamba in 2016, and a proof of concept project is underway at Domboramavara Area in the Chikomba District of Zimbabwe.

Read more

Having joined ARE in 2017, START Africa aims to transform the African rural homestead into a commercially productive unit, using conservation agriculture as the engine of production, anchored by abundant renewable energy resources (mainly solar and biogas) for water pumping and homestead small power.

Proof of Concept 

The first model homestead fully converted to START is the Chifamba home, where a 2-kW solar PV microgrid combined with a 6m3 biogas digester was constructed. Biogas cooking in two kitchens, meant no more open fires using firewood, combating deforestation and respiratory diseases (600,000 Africans die each year, most of them women and children), and electricity was now available 24/7.

The next stage of the proof of concept is underway, involving 85 homesteads with 510 inhabitants (300 are women), two schools and a small shopping centre. The START initiative addresses all 16 Sustainable Development Goals; including poverty, hunger, gender equality, health, education, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, all of which mainly affect women.

The Proof of Concept phase includes making improvements to the huts and adding basic plumbing and electrical connections to the new houses. Thus, women will no longer have to spend back-breaking hours ferrying water from shallow wells or walking to the bushes to fetch firewood for cooking. The supervised conservation farming has shown to improve yields by 600%, as a wide selection of cash crops like chia, green pepper, baby marrow and potatoes will be grown instead of only maize crop. The START Management Committee has ready markets (local, regional and export) secured for all the produce.

Each homestead will be loaned the equivalent of $18,000 for the complete START interventions package, and with appropriate allowance for training and supervision, including maintenance of all the infrastructure (mini-grid, communal boreholes, and biogas digesters), the payback period will be about 4 years, as 75% of the produce goes towards repayment and the families keep 25%.

Scalability to the entire country and the rest of the continent

The START Africa concept can be scaled up to cover all the 56 country districts (Zimbabwe) over 5 years, thereby adding about 350 MW of renewable energy to the country. It can then be piloted in other Southern African countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, and indeed to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

ElectriFI invests in Azuri Technologies

ElectriFI supports an innovative off-balance-sheet debt financing facility of up to $20 million to provide working capital for the expansion of off-grid energy and service provision in East Africa.

Read more

Azuri Technologies, one of leading providers of PayGo solar products and services across sub Saharan Africa, approached ElectriFI in 2017, to help structure and fund a new off-balance-sheet debt financing facility. The main purpose is to provide working capital for the expansion of off-grid energy and service provision in East Africa. The facility is envisioned to reach $20 million and to be deployed in phases during 2018, the first of which has already been concluded in December 2017, thanks to ElectriFI financing.

Worth more than $4 million, the first phase also includes investments from Azuri and the impact investment platform TRINE. The first phase will be deployed in Kenya, providing financing to enable Azuri to supply its PayGo solar systems, including its new satellite-TV solution, to tens of thousands more households across the country. Subsequent phases of the facility will expand to Azuri’s other key territories in East Africa including Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

The PayGo sector is growing rapidly and its continued expansion requires access to substantial amounts of commercial debt capital. In fact, the recent lighting global study estimates total financing needs of the sector to amount to over USD 5 billion between in the next 5 years. ElectriFI hopes that the success of its investment will help replicate off-balance sheet debt instruments, attract new sophisticated lenders and address the huge funding needs of the sector.

Azuri’s CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth confirmed the completion of the first phase of the receivables financing facility as a major step for Azuri. He values the support of ElectriFI as a great vote of confidence in the opportunity in the African off-grid home solar sector as a whole and in Azuri in particular. The company is confident it will enable it to attract a new set of commercial investors to further expand the impact of our work.

This is a great example of ElectriFI’s mandate to support the off-grid energy sector in sub Saharan Africa. ElectriFI’s investment is providing the necessary working capital for the company to reach out and create impact at tens of thousands of households and is providing a structure that can bring more commercial investors to this sector.

Third Generation Solar Home Systems: A Feasible Electrification Solution for the Most Remote Latin American Communities

The ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation implements successful electricity service delivery models to attend to underserved isolated rural communities. In the last years, the technological evolution of the solar home systems and the introduction of compatible high-efficient electric devices have facilitated the Foundation’s mission of bringing electricity services to the most remote homes, even those in the Amazonia.

Read more

The Luz en Casa initiative, which started in Cajamarca (Peru) in 2009, demonstrates now the feasibility, affordability and sustainability of electrifying rural households with the adequate service delivery model. This is based on: installing and operating solar home systems; making the service economically sustainable and affordable, and; involving authorities, other organisations and, specially, locals in the initiative. The emergence of the Third Generation Solar Home Systems (3GSHS) in the market some years ago has improved that model.

The first experience of ACCIONA Microenergia with 3GSHS was in Oaxaca (Mexico), where it has brought electricity service to more than 7,500 households in isolated rural communities. 3GSHS was the best option to electrify those remote homes, with its small size, low weight, and plug&play architecture allowing users to install it themselves, after a basic training session, and facilitate its transport for maintenance.

3GSHS can supply an average of 6 hours of electric lighting and 1-2 hours of connection to compatible appliances a day, besides charging of a mobile phone. This represents, according to the World Bank ESMAP “Beyond Connections” publication on Energy Access, having about 50% out of total access to electricity, which impacts significantly on the nutrition, health, education or entertainment, productive and domestic activities of users.

Considering that some customer services started in strategic locations to offer repair, replacement and sale of pieces of equipment, as well as compatible 12 VDC electric devices, with the aim of supporting the use of the availability of electricity while offering other applications besides lighting. These service centres owned by locals ‒ identified and specifically trained by ACCIONA Microenergia ‒ sell light bulbs, adapters and low-consumption appliances such as lamp kits, radios, tablets, TVs, blenders or even small fridges.

Today, ACCIONA Microenergia also supplies electricity through 3GSHS in isolated communities of the Peruvian Amazonia, by adding a pay-as-you-go system for these places with exclusively fluvial access and being supported by customer services too. The Amazonian users were satisfied with the 3GSHS, stating that it was both easy to install and use and handle the prepayment, that the service given was good and recommendable.

Those comments reflect the success of providing electricity with 3GSHS in this type of special settings, where 2% of Latin American population (13 million people) are still living without access to basic services.


  • World Future Energy Summit, WFES (Abu Dhabi, 16 January 2018)

    Read more

    Together with the Middle East Solar Association (MESIA) and in the context of WFES, ARE Board Members Katarina Hasbani (The August Company) and Aaron Leopold (Practical Action) were present to co-organise a workshop on “Opportunities for Decentralised Solar Energy in East Africa and MENA”, which focused on opportunities for decentralised solar in residential markets and C&I in the Middle-East, as well as microgrids and productive uses in Africa with a particular focus on agriculture. 

    Before the session, ARE also gave a presentation on “Decoding regional regulations to unlock business opportunities in East Africa”.

  • India Energy Access Summit (New Delhi, 12-13 February 2018)

    Read more

    As part of the Summit, gathered around 300 participants, ARE Board Member Katarina Hasbani (The August Company) moderated a session on “big data and analytics for energy access”. ARE Members CES-India and Energo Labs also took part in the panel discussion.

    The purpose of the session co-led by ARE, Sambodhi Research and Climate Group was to deliberate the potential of big data to scale up energy access. More information as well as summaries will be available shortly.

  • ARE Annual General Meeting 2018 (Catania, 12 March 2018)

    Read more

    This is a unique opportunity for Members to influence the future direction of ARE and to meet other Members of the Alliance. Members will be invited to vote for four new Board Members, as well as, ARE’s new President as Ernesto Macias who has been the President of ARE since its founding in 2006 has decided to step down after 12 years of service. Also, the new Board will present their proposal for the future ARE Strategy and Working Program for 2018.

  • [Last chance] 4th ARE Energy Access Investment Forum (Catania, 13-15 March 2018)

    Read more

    Thanks to the kind support of Enel Green Power as diamond sponsor, this years ARE Forum will take place in Catania (Sicily). Since its 1st edition in Madrid three years ago, the annual Forum has become the key milestone event in spring where the clean energy off-grid sector gathers together to learn more about upcoming new support schemes and initiatives by the public sector as well as latest industry trends and product and service innovations from the private sector.

    The 2018 Forum is organised in collaboration with RES4Africa and RECP and is the meeting place for 250 participants from all over the world to identify and get introduced to the most interesting actors to present their own business proposals.

    The Forum will be divided into three days and a diverse agenda:

    • Day 1: Conference Day & ARE Awards 2018 (Side event: DG DEVCO Workshop on the Energy Digital Nexus)
    • Day 2: RECP Business Matchmaking
    • Day 3: Site visit to 3SUN Factory, Passo Martino Innovation Hub and Winch Energy’s Remote Power Unit (RPU). More information here.


    Almost 200 registered participants and 80 profiles have been uploaded on the Matchmaking Platform! Participants can start booking meetings from 27 February 2018.

    Last chance to book your tickets!

    Contact: Ling Ng (ARE Communications & Marketing Officer)

  • Sustainable Energy for All Forum (Lisbon, 2-3 May 2018)

    Read more

    More than 750 leaders from government, business, civil society and international organisations will gather in Lisbon, Portugal on 2-3 May 2018 for the fourth Sustainable Energy for All Forum.

    The 2018 Forum, “Leaving No One Behind”, will take place at a pivotal juncture for accelerating progress on global sustainable energy goals — under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 — and the Paris Climate Agreement. At stake are significant populations that are missing out on education, health, jobs and broader economic opportunities because they do not have access to clean, affordable energy. Closing these energy gaps — especially for ‘last mile’ populations — is the Forum‘s imperative.

    The agenda will focus on sharing the latest evidence of scalable innovations in providing electricity access, accelerating renewable energy and improving energy efficiency in all corners of the world. It will shine a spotlight on the urgency for bringing affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to under-served populations, communities and regions that are at risk of being left behind in the global clean energy transition. These populations are especially vulnerable to energy poverty, climate impacts and other extreme economic challenges; yet they also lack a voice, finance and political capacity for changing their situation.

    ARE as Proud Partner of SEforALL is a supporter of the Forum.

  • [Save-the-Date] Intersolar Europe: Off-Grid Power Exhibition & Forum (Munich, 20-22 June 2018)

    Read more

    Based on last year’s success and the positive feedback received from industry and governments, Intersolar Europe together with the ARE and the German Solar Association (BSW-Solar) join forces again this year to bring the Off-Grid Power Exhibition & Forum back at Intersolar Europe.

    Off-grid players will soon be invited to submit their speaking and/or exhibition proposal (via ARE only up to eight stands available).

    Subscribe to  the ARE newsletter for the latest information.

  • AEEP: Best Practices & Key Recommendations from Young Leaders in Energy Access

    Read more

    African youth (15–24 years) constitute about 37% of the working age population, but account for more than 60% of all unemployed people in Africa, while more than 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity.

    As advocates and innovators for bringing sustainable energy solutions to households, communities, regions and countries, youth can play a pivotal role in solving these fundamenetal challenges. Crucially, an increasing number of African and European youth have risen to take the energy access challenge head-on and have come up with many innovative solutions and initiatives, which can help scale up access to energy in rural Africa and spawn local job creation.

    This publication sheds light on efforts made by six Young Leaders who were chosen as winners based on an open Call for Proposals in early 2017. The Young Leaders were invited to the 3rd ARE Energy Access Investment Forum in Lisbon, Portugal on 22–23 March 2017 and received award from high-level representatives of leading organisations. The Young Leaders in Energy Access also presented a Communiqué with recommendations to the high-level representatives.

    In September 2017, the Young Leaders were invited to a training session for African Rural Electrification Agencies grouped under the CLUB-ER to present a ‘Call to Action’ to the African Rural Electrification Authorities during the Annual Meeting.

    The six Young Leaders are:

    • Dr. Abdirahman M. Abdilahi, CEO, SOMPOWER
    • Astria Fataki, Founder & President, Energy Generation
    • Dina Ramaromandray, Lawyer, Ministry of Energy & Hydrocarbons Madagascar
    • Marta Pascual Santodomingo, Community Development Coordinator, Trama Tecnoambiental / International Consultant
    • Sayouba Guira, General Director, Nafa Naana
    • Simon Kiragu Muigai, Partnerships Manager, wPOWER HUB
  • EUEI PDF: National Approaches to Electrification: A Review of Options

    Read more

    Though electrification and energy access have risen up the political agenda in recent years and significant progress has been made in the last decade, the target of electricity access for all by 2030 (SDG7) will not be achieved under current policies. The adoption of effective electrification approaches will be key to overcoming this gap and providing people with the energy they need.

    Together with its partners Energising Development (EnDev) and Practical Action, the EUEI PDF has set out to collect a systematic overview of national approaches to electrification. The project is important, since despite a long history of electrification globally and a variety of technologies, policy approaches and market development instruments, a comprehensive compilation has so far been missing.

    The project’s output is a tool which through a systematic analysis, review and appraisal of existing national electrification approaches and their characteristics provides high-level information on national electrification approaches in a systemised manner.

    It summarises

    • the different policy options and instruments at the national level for accelerating access to electricity;
    • what costs and (macroeconomic) benefits each option implies;
    • how these options can be combined in a manner that optimises economic and social welfare on the national level;
    • what are the strengths and weaknesses of different technologies and delivery modes in facilitating energy access to those still unserved.

    The tool aims to enable policy makers and programme designers to assess different options and decide on an optimal design of a national electrification strategy for their country. It serves as a first step on the way to creating a more detailed and in-depth guidance on the design and implementation of national approaches to electrification.

  • World Bank: Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2018

    Read more

    The 2018 Global Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report is the fourth report in a biennial series established over the past 8 years as the report of record for the off-grid solar industry. While the Lighting Global/GOGLA franchise of six-month market updates (H1 2017H2 2016) serve as the go-to source of information for investors, industry members, policymakers, and other stakeholders in the off-grid solar space, the flagship Market Trends Report provides an opportunity to step back for reflection on long-term trends, challenges and opportunities—illuminating a path forward for the sector. The 2018 publication takes stock of the industry across six axes: market fundamentals, sales, the competitive landscape, finance, the enabling environment, and impact. It provides in-depth analysis on current market dynamics, projections for the coming five years, and a blueprint for how actors in this market can compete in a swiftly evolving industry ecosystem.

    The numbers in the report reflect a dynamic young industry that is altering the economic landscape of developing countries while delivering unprecedented development impact. However, the real story of the sector lies in the transformative power of innovation as revolutionary new business models and disruptive technologies continue to emerge across the market. This report provides a compelling view under the hood of that dynamic machine and casts a light on what may lie around the corner.

Please note that views expressed in the Co-Editorial, the In Focus section and the Special Feature of the newsletter, are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect ARE’s opinion.

Past Issues