The DRE Sector is Ready to Overcome Energy Access Challenge

David Lecoque, CEO, ARE

Placing the Cornerstone of Decentralised Electrification

Pierre Cazelles, Director - Global Partnerships, International Copper Alliance, CORE

The International Energy Agency concludes that decentralised renewable energy (DRE) systems are recognised to be the least-cost electrification solution for 75% of new connections worldwide.

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DRE provides rural and peri-urban communities with reliable electricity, which can be a catalyst of local job creation and socio-economic development. The market for DRE mini-grids alone is estimated to generate an annual profit of USD 3.3 billion for DRE developers between 2019–2030, making DRE an imperative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the DRE sector inevitably grows and the world moves towards universal electrification by 2030, it is of utmost importance that sustainability is embedded in all projects and that safety, efficiency and reliability become the cornerstone of rural electrification efforts. What is at stake is no less than the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, most of which are largely dependent on sustainable electricity to be delivered.

The solution to the sustainability challenge lies with the skills of the local workforce, which must be strengthened to deal with the monumental increase in decentralised electrification needs in the years to come. A recent survey with DRE industry players indicated that more than 70% of companies have difficulties in finding skilled local field staff.

With this in mind, the Cornerstone of Rural Electrification Initiative (CORE) was initiated by the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), the International Copper Association (ICA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Sustainable Energy for ALL (SEforALL), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the United National Industrial Development Program (UNIDO) to address the immense capacity building and technical assistance needs to support the development of DRE systems as a means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

CORE works with partners on the following avenues of support:

  • Certified CORE Academy trainings for DRE practitioners (directly or through training of trainers)
  • Development of regional/national training and certification frameworks for DRE practitioners together with universities, training institutions and governments
  • Flexible, on-demand technical assistance and capacity building activities for governments, DRE practitioners, training institutions, universities and rural and peri-urban entrepreneurs
  • An open-source knowledge platform, which gathers existing technical training materials and tools for the benefit of the DRE community

All partners interested in collaborating are welcome to contact me at and subscribe to the CORE Newsletter.


The Secret Ingredient for Off-grid Technology Success

Being part of a tech company in the distributed renewable energy sector is special. Throughout the SteamaCo team, there’s a shared sense of doing good —a belief that tech is the best way to help make millions of lives better. Yet that conviction comes with a caveat.

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Tech alone can’t change the world. Here’s why:

When it comes to the feasibility, design and implementation of hardware or software, some global tech companies simply expect their customers to buy their products and get on with using them. It means that mistakes often happen, so some products' lives are over before they’ve even begun —and at great expense.

The distributed renewable energy sector deserves better than that. And it’s why SteamaCo works in a different way.

At the heart of what SteamaCo does is co-creation. We work closely with mini-grid developers and utilities to build precisely what their sites need. Yes, innovations like our affordable API-driven AMI software and data-efficient metering hardware are important, but it’s our excellent seven-day customer service that brings each site to life… and sustains them.

Co-creation and adapting to each customer’s way of working is how we make sure new installations —big or small, residential or commercial— are a success. Take one of our customers, a mini-grid developer, for example. 

On their site in Rwanda, our customer had the option to use our Install Assist smartphone app to automate parts of their setup. For no reason other than personal preference, they preferred to use their in-house installation methods, which we were happy to accommodate. Our onboarding and technical support team worked with the customer, providing meter coordinates to optimise the product’s performance as well as giving tailored guidance to get the site live fast.

Such custom support means that not only does our customer now manage the tech almost entirely autonomously, but it also benefitted the wider world. As SteamaCo Chief Operating Officer Phil Roberts comments today, “Collaboration during the planning and installation in Rwanda meant we identified future efficiencies through boosting user adoption of Install Assist to automate meter coordinate logging. The co-creation in Rwanda led to improved services for SteamaCo customers across Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.”

As you can see, tech alone might not be the answer to life’s challenges. But when it’s paired with people working together.

That’s how great things happen.


P-RECs: Facilitating High Impact Renewable Energy Projects in Fragile Countries Across Africa

Despite the progress made in increasing access to energy at continent level to the current average of 46%, fragile countries continue to suffer from persistent energy poverty and vulnerability to climate change. In addition, less than 5% of global climate finance goes towards projects in these countries given their unique risks and challenges. To help address this, Energy Peace Partners (EPP) —whose foundational idea is that renewable energy can support peace— has developed the Peace Renewable Energy Credit (P-REC), an instrument that extends the global USD 1 billion international market for energy attribute certificates (EACs) to fragile, energy poor target countries such as the DRC, South Sudan, Chad and Somalia.

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A P-REC represents 1 MWh of electricity generated by a renewable source and, in addition, captures the social benefits associated with that renewable energy generation given its location in an EPP target country. P-RECs are a unique financial instrument monetising EACs unbundled from the generation itself to provide project developers with an additional revenue stream, which they can use to unlock further finance.

The first P-REC buyer was Microsoft, a recognised corporate sustainability leader with a purchase from a new 1.3 MW off-grid solar plant built by Nuru, a Congolese developer in the city of Goma, DRC. This transaction provided funds for the installation of mini-grid connected streetlights in the neighbourhood of Ndosho, which have provided increased nighttime security and allowed businesses to operate longer hours. Google, another multinational company, made a forward purchase of P-RECs from a separate project in the DRC by the same developer, which helped to finance a new renewable energy mini-grid system. This system is providing first-time electrification to underserved, rural communities near Garamba National Park and it will help to provide viable livelihood alternatives to poaching and artisanal mining.

EPP believes that these P-REC transactions represent growing demand among corporate leaders to include high impact options within their overall renewable energy portfolios and is working to accelerate efforts to identify and expand the pipeline of P-REC-eligible projects, increase the number of countries where we are authorised to issue P-RECs, and expand our network of project developer partners.

EPP is also collaborating with the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance to develop and launch a USD 10 million P-REC Aggregation Fund, which will offer a portfolio approach to purchasing P-RECs from target countries, while P-REC forward sales will provide developers with up to 10% upfront capital to help catalyse financing for new projects. The Fund will facilitate greater finance flows to renewable energy projects on the continent and is envisioned to unlock up to USD 100 million in transformative renewable energy projects in fragile countries and advance the global agenda on universal energy access (SDG-7), climate action (SDG-13), and peace (SDG-16).


  • ARE Increases Local Footprint in Zambia, Cameroon and Uganda

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    ARE is increasing its local footprint with the recent signatures of two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the Solar Industry Association of Zambia (SIAZ), the Cameroonian Association for Renewable Energies (ACER), and the Uganda National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Alliance (UNREEEA). The MoUs set out the shared goals of the organisations to address the existing obstacles which hinder the optimal use of the various renewable energies and the potential for energy efficiency. The organisations will work with ARE to promote social and economic development by increasing the share of renewable energies in the energy mix in Zambia, Cameroon, and Uganda.

    ARE will work bilaterally with the associations on a number of activities, including joint advocacy for renewable energy policies to create a conducive market environment for decentralised renewable energy (DRE) actors, accompanying and contributing to the government’s efforts to achieve renewable energy targets as well as targeted business development and market intelligence support for DRE companies.

  • Stimulating Demand for Productive Use of Renewable Energy Solutions in Local Communities (7 Jul)

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    ARE and Green People's Energy organised a webinar on "Stimulating Demand for Productive Use of Renewable Energy Solutions in Local Communities“ on 7 July 2021. The webinar, which attracted over 800 registered participants, was part of ‘Paving the way for Clean Energy Transition with Decentralised Renewable Energy (PWCET) Series.’

    The webinar delved into what it took to stimulate demand for and uptake of productive use of renewable energy (PURE) solutions in rural communities. The speakers highlighted the challenges and barriers, present examples of innovative solutions and the opportunities of productive use activities to improve the livelihoods of rural communities.

    Missed the  webinar? Watch the recording.

  • Vienna Energy Forum: Energising Chats (7 Jul)

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    ARE CEO David Lecoque was interviewed by Conference Host Sarah Kelly with thought leaders and leading experts in the energy sector at the Vienna Energy Forum on 7 July 2021.

    When asked how ARE can champion the energy transition, he emphasised that "We accelerate the energy transition by leapfrogging over old-timey fossils and outdated “grid extension only” approaches, to future and climate-proof renewable power generation, powering the world from the bottom up."

    Watch the Recording.

  • [Invite] Advancing Policy & Mobilising Investment: The Eastern Caribbean Solar Challenge (2 Sep)

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    ARE expands to new markets!

    ARE, OECS and the Eastern Caribbean Solar Challenge will be co-organising a dialogue on Advancing Policy & Mobilising Investment: The Eastern Caribbean Solar Challenge on 2 September 2021. The event is supported by NDC Finance Initiative (NDCFI), GIZ, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and GET.invest, a European programme that mobilises investments in decentralised renewable energy, supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria.

    The event will highlight key opportunities of the Eastern Caribbean Solar Challenge and the different ways to get involved. The sessions will showcase innovative decentralised renewable energy (DRE) solutions (especially solar-based) and business models, complemented with useful insights on policy and financial opportunities for domestic and international DRE companies and investors.

    Last chance to register!

  • [Invite] The Economist’s Future of Energy Week (4-7 Oct)

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    In its upcoming Future of Energy Week, The Economist Events will invite policymakers, energy experts, business leaders, academics and scientists to break down the concept of energy transition, consider the issues that need to be overcome and explore what a change in the energy system means for Asia and the world.

    Technological momentum is making alternative energy solutions competitive with fossil fuels on both a cost and performance basis.

    ARE CEO David Lecoque will be making the case for DRE in the Energy democracy: Consumers in the driving seat session.

    More specifically, he will be addressing how quickly we can translate this momentum into a change in consumer behaviour. How is consumer demand influencing the trajectory towards low-carbon energy and will Asian consumers pay for clean energy? What are the opportunities in Asia for consumers to become prosumers, i.e. to both consume and produce their own electricity via distributed energy systems? What does this mean for the private sector? And how can solutions like blockchain technology, AI and IoT support a consumer-centric energy transition?

  • [Register] Intersolar Europe: Off-grid Conference (5 Oct)

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    What does it take to secure affordable, clean energy and water for rural people in low-and medium-income countries by 2030? For sure, it is a combination of concerted political effort and technological progress.

    Watch out how to reduce costs and de-risk off-grid renewable energy projects. Find out how digital, control & monitoring solutions can play a decisive role and where water and off-grid solutions can combine to maximum effect.

    • Session 1: Rural Electrification – Experience and Perspectives
    • Session 2: Off-Grid Innovation – Digital, Control & Monitoring Solutions
    • Session 3: The Water-Energy-Food Nexus – A Technical Status Report

    ARE Members can apply their discount code at checkout.

    Register here

  • [Exhibit] Innovators' Village at SAM 2021 (Kigali, 20-21 Oct)

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    ARE is an official partner of the Innovators' Village, organised within the framework of the SAM 2021 (Semaine Africaine de la Microfinance), the largest event dedicated to inclusive finance in Africa. The Innovators' Village is a key event to showcase Innovative Solutions. It will take place over one day to allow more than 20 exhibitors to present their innovative products or services to the 500 participants expected. ARE will offer an award to the most innovative organisation in the field of decentralised and sustainable renewable energy that will exhibit at the Village. The award ceremony will take place during the Gala Dinner in the presence of all SAM participants on Thursday, October 21.

    David Lecoque, CEO of ARE said that: "Fostering innovation is at the heart of ARE’s DNA and crucial to achieving the sustainable development objectives. ARE is very proud to work with ADA and dedicate a special prize to the winner of the SAM Innovation Village contest advancing decentralised renewable energy for sustainable electrification.”

    Registrations are open until 7 September 2021.

  • [Book your stand] OFF-GRID Expo + Conference (Augsburg, 2-3 Dec)

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    The OFF-GRID Expo gives suppliers from the entire off-grid process chain the opportunity to showcase their innovative products and solutions. In 2021, we will again offer flexible Plug & Play stand packages, including digital add-ons, to ensure you achieve maximum visibility.

    Numerous industry giants have already registered,  and we look forward to welcoming companies such as Bach Energiesysteme UG, BOS Balance of Storage Systems AG, BVKW Bundesverband Kleinwindanlagen e.V., KATEK Memmingen GmbH, Liontron GmbH & Co. KG, Ludger Börmann Holzatelier, Mission Critical Energy Inc, Phaesun GmbH, Pro Regenerative Energien GmbH & Co. KG, STUDER INNOTEC SA, UNIDO ITPO Germany, University of Oldenburg - Postgraduate Programme Renewable Energy, Victron Energy BV and many more. 

    Do you also want to join the Off-Grid exhibitor family? ARE Members enjoy special conditions!

    Contact: Deepak Mohapatra

  • [Call for case studies] DRE for Mining Campaign: Decarbonising Mines and Powering up Communities

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    Under their new ‘DRE for Mining’ Campaign, ARE and UNIDO ITPO Germany are cordially inviting mining companies, innovative technology providers and decentralised renewable energy (DRE) stakeholders to submit case studies and videos for a new publication.

    The publication will highlight innovative and out-of-the-box DRE approaches to introduce clean energy practices in mining areas and power communities around them. The background info and case study template including the video submission guidelines are provided below. The deadline for submissions: 10 September 2021 COB.

    Contact persons:

    Ms. Sandisiwe Moyo, Policy & Business Development Intern, ARE
    Mr. Robin Kuranel, Consultant, UNIDO ITPO Germany

    Campaign Manager:

    Mr. Deepak Mohapatra, Policy & Business Development Officer, ARE

    Download background info & case study template

  • [Coming soon] ARE & IDB: Market Assessment: Status of the Off-grid Renewable Energy Market in Latin America & the Caribbean

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    The Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region has the cleanest energy mix in the world due to its vast renewable energy resources, with the potential to meet global electricity needs 22 times. Nowadays, the region has achieved a 97% rate of electricity coverage, compared to 65% in 1990. Despite the positive transition, more than 18.1 million people in the region are still not covered by electricity infrastructure.

    Against this background, off-grid renewable energy solutions are particularly well positioned to address at least 40% of the electricity access gap in LAC, scale up electricity demand through productive uses of renewable energy and bring high quality power to rural, isolated communities that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  

    The publication, developped by ARE and the Inter-American Development Bank, will provide international project developers, private investors and funding institutions with key insights into the needs, trends, challenges and opportunities in the LAC off-grid renewable energy market.

    Stay tuned in the coming weeks!

  • EnDev: Tiers, Markets, Sustainability: Trends in Rural Off-Grid Electrification

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    Despite the efforts of EnDev and many other international organisations (World Bank, AfDB, UN, USAID, etc.), the goal of universal access to electricity by the end of this decade remains elusive. Particularly in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, universal access is not within reach, although good progress has been made in selected countries.

    Therefore, universal electrification efforts ought to be accelerated and designed as effective as possible to achieve maximum impact within a short timeframe. The guide analyses key market trends and sustainability indicators in the picoPV, SHS, nano-grid and mini-grid sectors that can contribute towards the achievement of delivering reliable and affordable electricity access.

  • UN: Theme Report on Energy Access

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    This report was prepared in support of the High-level Dialogue on Energy that will be convened by the UN Secretary-General under the auspices of the UN General Assembly in September 2021.

    The preparation for the Dialogue has been coordinated under the leadership of the Dialogue Secretary-General, LIU Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and the Co-Chairs of the Dialogue and UN-Energy, Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP and Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. The report is a product of a multi-stakeholder Technical Working Group (TWG) which was formed in preparation of the High-level Dialogue. UN-Energy provided substantive support to the TWG throughout the development of this report.

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.

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