Join ARE to Boost Your Business & Reinforce the Voice of the Off-grid Sector

David Lecoque, CEO a.i., ARE

Innovating to Support Energy Access

Dr. Nicola Lazenby, Innovation Lead, Energy Team, Clean Growth & Infrastructure, Innovate UK

Europe is transitioning to what could be seen as a ‘green revolution’ as countries work towards achieving ‘net zero’ emissions attributed to energy production and consumption. This is in contrast to Africa where it still remains that over 600 million Africans lack access to basic energy; a key factor in alleviating poverty and achieving sustainable development.

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Whilst the magnitude of the problems faced are very different, the key similarity is that both continents require a significant uplift in innovation to achieve their targets, with similar innovation being required in both geographies. Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst Programme aims to bridge these gaps in energy innovation by supporting collaboration and shared learning.

Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst Programme supports innovators and entrepreneurs around the world to develop in-country solutions geared towards providing energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/South East Asia. The programme focuses on innovation that meets the energy trilemma of clean, affordable and sustainable energy whilst supporting gender equality and social inclusion in its development and deployment.

The Energy Catalyst programme provides a variety of activities including: collaboration and brokerage, getting the best innovators working together to achieve common goals; competitive grant funding, to boost technology development within this sector; The Energy Catalyst Accelerator, ensuring innovators develop the know-how to commercialise their technology; facilitated learning events, bring together energy innovators to key insight from the sector, share the best practice and lessons learn working in this space.

One area commonly overlooked in the energy access sector is digital innovation. With ICT infrastructure being responsible for approximately 8% of the global demand for electricity, and the energy usage of data centres growing by an average of 11% per year over the last decade, it is clear an area with a growing demand for innovation in delivering energy efficiency. The Energy Catalyst Programme has supported innovation in this space through a project led by Extreme Low Energy Ltd who conducted a feasibility study to assess an alternative air moving system using piezo actuators for DC-based server cooling, in comparison to conventional fan technologies used for server cooling in data centres for use across Africa.

Note: Energy Catalyst is currently open for applications up until 16th September 2020 to access up to GBP 20 million of grant funding, from Global Challenges Research Fund and the Department for International Development, to support energy access projects.

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. As part of the Energy Catalyst Accelerator, Innovate UK is collaborating with ARE in sharing learnings from the programme and the broader energy access sector through their leadership on key energy access industry events.


Innovation & Digitalisation at Studer: On the Path Towards Sustainable Development

Well aware that global energy challenges are changing rapidly at Studer, we are focusing on creating simple solutions to complex problems. In energy management the needs are increasing, systems are becoming more complex, and technology and innovation must respond to these new imperatives. We develop products that enrich people’s life’s and are constantly on the lookout for groundbreaking developments and trends.

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A few years ago, an inverter was a single device working alone. Today, it communicates with other devices in a system, there is remote supervision, and an interaction with the final user and the rest of elements of the energy chain. There is real added value in having an eco-system around the inverter.

Studer service does not end when a product is placed on the market, on the contrary, goes one step forward committing itself to constant development, with a team of specialised professionals fully dedicated to this.

With the firm conviction that innovation must be broader than just technological research, but must bring in demonstration, this year 2020 marks an important turning point in the history of our company with the launch of our new generation of smart inverters: the next range.

For the very first time, we have developed a 3-phase inverter charger with 2 built-in solar high voltage MPPT inputs. A revolutionary device with great and innovative technical features, designed to maximise the efficiency in battery-based systems.

On top of the hardware and technical features, we have developed a new comprehensive interface, one single and central user interface per system. NextOS is an intuitive smart platform to configure, control and analyse your system. Making life easier for both professional installers and final users.

Digitalisation is the path for more comprehensive solutions towards the power management of tomorrow. The systems are meant to progress with the user and the context. The AI and powerful energy management tools will result in constantly evolving solutions. We’ve also devised financial and digital services that are unique in the world and essentially adapted to the markets that affect you, thereby confirming Studer's position as a top-of-the-range player in the field of power electronics.

Next, challenge accepted

The next environment is the new revolutionary ecosystem to strive every upcoming challenge. A series of devices embracing innovation and setting up the line for future evolution.

Go to the next level, visit


Launch of the AFD’s Digital Energy Facility

On 23 December 2019, the French Development Agency (AFD – Agence Française de Développement) and the European Commission (DG International Cooperation and Development) signed a EUR 23.5 million agreement for the implementation of the Digital Energy Facility.

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The aim of the Facility is to promote innovation in the energy sector, through the digitalisation of public utilities and the development of innovative solutions for energy access. The Digital Energy Facility will assist partner countries in their efforts putting in place the conditions necessary for the development of reliable and sustainable energy services. All countries eligible under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) will be eligible under this Facility, with a special focus on sub-Saharan Africa, since the needs in this region are higher.

Concretely, the Facility will finance Technical Assistance and pilot investments to support the

development of innovative solutions for energy access and utility performance improvement. Both utilities and startups in the field of energy are indeed the key targets of the Facility.

The programme will especially:

  • Prepare the financing of a significant portfolio of smart grid/ICT projects with the objective of improving utilities’ performance, with more integration of renewable energies and a better energy access;
  • Support capacity building and exchange of best practices related to the development and implementation of smart grid/ICT projects;
  • Organise annual Digital Energy Challenges, open to energy utilities and startups, in order to finance digital innovation;
  • Create a digital innovation ecosystem for companies, in particular those working with utilities and those developing access to energy solutions;
  • Finance pre-seed and seed capital for innovative solutions for energy access companies ;
  • Create and manage an online platform to share information and knowledge between stakeholders.

This project marks an important contribution to the EU Digital4Development Programme (D4D) and is the first of its kind in the energy-digital nexus confirming the EUs and AFD’s long-standing partnership and commitment to embark on new innovative paths.

The expected impacts are manifold and include: 1 million people benefitting from secured electricity production, circa 50 companies (both public and private) supported thanks to seed capital and capacity building, 100 MW of additional capacity from renewable energy sources and 100,000 GHG emissions saved (CO2 or CO2eq).

For more information, please contact Clara Coornaert.


Call for Co-Creation to Mini-grid Providers: Full Electrification & Digitisation as a Service

Mini-grids are increasingly widespread and successful solutions for decentralised and reliable energy access, serving remote communities around the world. But is it reliable energy for all?

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An explorative investigation by mango solar reveals that up to 40% of villagers cannot be reached due to technical and economic limitations, leaving roughly 360 million people underserved by 2030. In addition, according to a report by ESMAP from June 2019, on-site processes tend to be time-consuming and expensive up to now, while suitable support software is lacking.

How to overcome these challenges?

An innovative business model approach closes the gap by expanding ecosystems with a combination of smart, stand-alone solar home systems and cloud-based software services.

Mini-grid providers can increase their number of customers and revenues by 40% and decrease operational costs by 30% through process digitisation.

How to increase revenues by 40%?

Up to 40% of households in a village are unreachable. These can be served via stand-alone solar home systems, expanding mini-grids’ ecosystems to 100% and reaching full electrification. Based on in-depth interviews with mini-grid providers, three specific features for solar home systems are essential:

  1. Connectivity: Stand-alone systems need to be seamlessly integrated into various technical communication infrastructures of mini-grid ecosystems.
  2. Quality: Products must be exceptionally long-lasting and repairable for the long-term leasing business models of mini-grid providers.
  3. Branding: Logo and colors should be fully customized to visually fit into the existing mini-grid environment and increase consumer retention on meeting their need for electricity.

How to decrease operational costs by 30%?

Some processes of mini-grid providers are already being supported by IT. Still, there is huge potential for tailored and encompassing solutions to serve the last mile, especially for expanding ecosystems. Through process digitisation in sales, after sales and monitoring, on-site business activities can be boosted and operational costs decreased down to 30%.

Digitisation has an unprecedented value for scaling businesses of mini-grid providers – now and in the future.

Interested? Call for co-creation

  • mango solar develops IoT-enabled, stand-alone solar home systems and a software platform designed for emerging markets.
  • What? We are looking for mini-grid providers to expand our cloud services in a co-creation approach.
  • Why? To create digital solutions for the most pressing problems in the off-grid energy market.

Tell us about your challenges - shape your digital future!


Improving Microgrid Design Using Artificial Intelligence

The Challenge: An optimal system design of hybrid microgrids is important to ensure an efficient and clean electricity generation. This task consists of finding the fitting sizing for batteries, renewable energy sources (RES) and conventional generators. Determining the optimal system design is non-trivial as several challenges need to be met:

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  • RES production and demand are fluctuating and stochastic in nature.
  • Off-grid microgrids need to be capable to regulate frequency and voltage.
  • A microgrid is a complex dynamic system with interaction of generators as well as their inertia and ability to contribute to system stability.

While very precise software tools exist for the simulation of the electrical system, they are mostly unsuitable for quick feasibility studies where the optimal design should be picked from a multitude of alternative systems. For this reason, generic tools with lower precision have evolved for that task. Determining the optimal design is oftentimes a problematic process of going back and forth between generic and high-resolution simulation tools which in the end can lead to a suboptimal system design.


With its software product “Q-System” Qantic has developed the first AI-based microgrid design tool that pairs very precise technical models of component behavior for all relevant microgrid technologies with a powerful machine learning algorithm that helps to determine the optimal combination of components and their interaction.

Particularly, “Q-System” is able to:

  • Extract stochastic patterns in RES generation and demand,
  • Model the complex system dynamics and technical behavior of components,
  • Determine the optimal interaction between battery and gensets while maintaining optimal battery reserves to cover fluctuations of RES.

“Q-System” makes it possible to get a high-resolution insight to the microgrid’s system dynamics at high computation speeds which allow it to be used in quick feasibility studies. “Q-System” bridges the gap between generic feasibility tools and precise system simulations.

Case Study

Together with a client we compared the outcome of “Q-System” to a standard tool for microgrid feasibility studies based on a “load following” and “cycle charging” approach combined with grid search.

We found that the higher resolution insight of “Q-System” leads to a significantly different recommendation of the system design in a feasibility study for a microgrid project as the standard tool oversizes components. Furthermore, the optimal system design of “Q-System” leads to 8.7% lower costs, 20% lower investment and 30% lower emissions.


A Home Called Earth

Reduce, Recycle and Reuse: these are the three "R" at the basis of a life with a lower impact for the Earth that hosts us. To determine our 'ecological footprint' are different categories of consumption, from food to transport, passing through the homes in which we live and purchases of consumer goods and services.

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It is estimated that the world average to support our consumption is 1.6 planets, so we need a planet and a half to support our lifestyle. Although this is not true for the inhabitants of the 'developing countries' who on the contrary are custodians of the Earth's biodiversity, they live with a very low environmental impact.

So can we turn the tide in Western societies? Can we, in our small way, through a series of actions (or not actions) reduce the impact we have on this planet? The answer is given by the family of Casa Pajà.

Simone & Elena, like the Australian Aborigines left their home, relatives and friends to venture alone in the outback for a regenerative walkabout. They left their home in the north of Italy to experience life in the countryside by building themselves a thatched house perfectly energy efficient.

In 2015 they moved to Montalto, in the Marche region, and taking advantage of the wheat harvest period they began to build their brick-by-brick residence with straw bales; The technique they used to erect the walls is that of GREB, therefore a mixture of sand (cheap), sawdust shavings (gifted), lime (very little cost) and 1/18 of cement to pull.

In 2017, they decided to install our 3 kW Leonardo Off-Grid system with 9.6 kWh lead acid battery pack and 4 kW of photovoltaic modules, taking advantage of their sunny south side position. Their home is very comfortable but not equipped with all the comforts we are used to: there is a washing machine, radio and loudspeakers, strictly LED bulbs, an electric cooker and the 80 litres electric water heater that from March to November comes heated with the excess electricity of the photovoltaic panels. In practice, when the batteries are 100% and the sun is shining, the inverter diverts the energy produced by the panels directly to the water heater, without going through the batteries, thus safeguarding their useful life.

Simone and Elena are very happy to have used our Leonardo system which also helped them during the works, allowing to recharge the tools and to have light and hot water even when, due to the earthquake shocks combined with the snow, that occurred in the area, allowed to continue to have their energy independence. For this reason, a few weeks ago, we updated their system with a real time display via WRD monitor of their system, which can also be joined by the Leonardo monitor App to constantly update their consumption and production.

All Western CO. is proud to contribute to the zero-impact life that this family supports; and they too gave us a surprise, calling the newly arrived baby Lea, like our Leonardo system.

Digitalisation and Innovation in Nigeria & Myanmar

The goal of our initiatives in Nigeria and Myanmar is to monitor, measure and control all components of a mini-grid, to improve operational efficiency through Key Performance Indicators, and to reduce the Levelised Cost Of Electricity, with the aim of maximising economic development.

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Latest technologies for data collection, processing and communication are cheap, robust and powerful, and along with latest software in the Cloud, they drive the Internet of Things, of which smarter mini-grids are a key contribution.

Using these technologies to create a unified system of management for mini-grids, we can minimise costs and provide operational efficiencies and financial benefits for mini-grid operators, communities and financiers. These mini-grids are off-grid or have unpredictable grid connections.

Simultaneously, providing the Internet enables remote management of the mini-grid, as well as additional online services for accelerating economic development of local communities.

Critical objectives

We address two critical objectives:

  1. Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

The subsystems of a mini-grid each have their own independent control, which is often over-engineered for daily use. Subsequently, the mini-grid operator has to engage with diverse subsystems to manage the mini-grid, resulting in unnecessary inefficiencies and costs.

We provide a unified system of management for mini-grid which presents the mini-grid operator with all appropriate KPIs together in one dashboard, which is simple to use and easy to change:

This results in more efficient operational management, locally and remotely.

  1. Levelised Cost Of Electricity (LCOE)

Reducing LCOE provides more energy from the investment, which drives economic development.

To reduce LCOE, we integrate time-series data from generators and battery storage with time-series data from consumers. This integrated data provides the mini-grid operator with the information necessary to encourage different groups of consumers to move consumption to periods of cheaper renewable power:

The system subsequently shows the effects of such policies, so that they can be continually improved. For example, a decrease in the use of expensive diesel and battery storage can be measured over time.

This results in lower costs of providing reliable energy to consumers, leading to increasing profits and decreasing prices.

The unified system of management for mini-grids is easily installed on new or existing mini-grids, and can integrate equipment from any manufacturer.

Contact: Bob Carnell

We look forward to talking with you about providing these innovations for your customers and shareholders.

Harnessing Customer Data to Optimise Costs & Improve Reliability

Electric utilities across emerging markets in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia are faced with the challenge of earning a sufficient margin in a market where revenue is relatively static, but costs are dynamic. Keeping margins stable, systems reliable, and losses minimised are the critical obstacles for utilities of any size to overcome. 

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The Challenge of Dynamic Cost of Service

The challenge with maintaining strong margins and a reliable system is that not every utility customer operates under the same circumstances, but they are often charged the same based on energy consumption. A customer’s individual “cost of service” can vary dramatically from one customer to another, based on factors such as customer distance from distribution transformers, reliability of revenue collections, total system load, fluctuating commodity prices, and varying project finance rates. As an individual customer’s cost of service increases, the utility earns smaller and smaller margins (sometimes even losing money on certain customers during peak demand) because they are unable to identify these costs of service changes on an individual basis and implement cost-saving programs accordingly.

Understanding the true cost of service for individual customers allows the utility to establish programmes to maintain or even grow margins. With a stronger understanding of these cost drivers, utilities can implement initiatives such as: demand response programs that allow the utility to increase rates during peak load times, distributed energy resource integration to help manage local peaks and smooth out the load curve, and asset management programs that provide a clearer picture of the financial performance of the distribution network and identify how to best operate and allocate capital expenditures over time.

Unlocking Value through Utility Digitalisation

The key to identifying the cost of service and taking action is utility digitalisation—the process of using data to identify, measure, and fix the problems that increase the costs to serve customers. Implementing utility digitalisation requires three key components - installing digital assets that capture data effectively across the distribution grid, robust data analytics to measure grid efficiency at various levels, and powerful digital controls that allow the utility to take action on insights to improve margins and overall financial performance.

Smart Meters are at the core of utility digital transformation. Installing smart electricity meters at customer locations, on distribution transformers, or at fuse locations allows the utility to collect the raw grid data necessary to measure the utility’s cost drivers. It’s also critical that the utility’s smart meter technology can reliably collect and transmit this data back to central systems across the wide variety of bandwidth and connectivity environments common to many emerging markets.

Once data is back in central systems (ideally in the cloud), utilities need robust data analytics. This includes digital inventories of distribution network assets with GIS information and grid network connectivity models that are used to explain current performance and provide recommendations for how to improve. The software providing these analytics should be able to work at different levels, from connections to lines to Distribution Transformers to measure contributors to grid costs, and identify actions that can improve financial and technical performance.

Lastly, utilities need a partner to develop programs that improve performance and implement powerful digital controls that allow the utility to take action. Digital meter controls such as remote shutoff and remote tariff management allow for the implementation of demand response programs or load curtailment and help improve collections. At other levels on the distribution system, digital controls for Distributed Energy Resources like distributed storage can be developed to smooth out the demand curve and optimise grid efficiency or extend transformer lifetimes.  Understanding where, how much, and at what price these digital controls or DERs are needed will be on a performance improvement plan that is informed by system analytics. That plan should focus on the asset performance issues and identifies where and when major capital expenditures will be needed to maintain grid performance that could be mitigated by non-wires alternatives like DERs and demand response.

The Preferred Grid Management Solution for Improving Margins

At SparkMeter, we understand the challenges of utilities serving low-income customers in diverse geographies and know many utilities are looking for technology solutions and industry know-how to improve margins through utility digitalisation. That’s why we’ve recently launched SparkMeter Digital Solutions. Built on top of our industry-leading grid management hardware and software, Digital Solutions provides utilities with custom data analytics, engineering analyses to identify areas for operational and financial gain, and program development to implement distributed energy resources, demand response, and more.

If your utility is struggling to isolate the individual cost of service, trying to maintain strong margins, or looking to understand how DER integration, demand response, or other grid management programs can benefit your utility, let's have a conversation. Find out more about how SparkMeter can help by sending us an email to

Tripling Electricity Connections in Ethiopia

Today, the Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU) provides over 2.3 million customers with electricity in both urban and rural areas. Being one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, the Government of Ethiopia has laid the plans to triple its connected consumers to almost 7 million by 2030. Despite rapid economic growth – 10% GDP growth from 2006-2016 – more than 30% of Ethiopians live in extreme poverty and without access to reliable and affordable electricity.

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To help address this, NRECA International has created a modern geospatial and engineering platform for the government-owned Ethiopian Electric Utility, enabling more informed and effective planning environment to help reach their electricity connection goals.

Strengthening Ethiopia’s Distribution Systems

With funding from the US Agency for International Development, the NRECA International team implemented the “Distributions System Strengthening Project” from 2017 to 2020, to provide a platform for data collection and analysis. During the course of the project, data was captured from satellite imagery, and collected by an on-the-ground team responsible for surveying distribution infrastructure throughout all regions of Ethiopia – 1.2 million square kilometres in total. As a result, 142 substations, 59,355 km MV line, 32,941 transformers, as well as structures, road networks, rivers, terrain characteristics, political boundaries and population data throughout Ethiopia are now digitised and integrated into an operating geospatial planning platform that can be used for expansion planning for both on and off-grid projects and electrification investment planning. 


Earlier this year, the NRECA International team presented the results of the DSSP project and shared the analyses and recommendations to expand access and the investments required to implement them. In this report almost 1,300 rural communities were identified for mini grid installations, that have the potential to provide power to almost 37,000 consumers.

One such community is located in the Southwestern part of Ethiopia. Maji is located 400 miles by road from the capital Addis Ababa and is home to about 700 families. About 22 kebeles (villages) with an additional 4,800 families surround the area. Electricity is scarce, available only to the very few in town who can afford generators.

Using the electric cooperative model

Recently, an NRECA International team travelled to Maji and began the process of establishing a community-owned rural utility. In addition to working in tandem with the EEU to help increase power access to communities like Maji, NRECA International hopes to resolve the challenge of electrifying vast areas of Ethiopia where electricity supply will not yield significant financial returns by using the cooperative business model and renewable energy-powered mini-grids. Like many other rural and isolated communities in Ethiopia, the location of Maji poses a challenge, and the absence of electricity makes communications difficult at best, literacy rates remain low, and modern healthcare services are not easily accessible.


The outputs of this geospatial and engineering platform will provide tremendous value to EEU’s planning and operations departments, but the benefits will go beyond just increasing electricity access. The platform integrates multiple geographic datasets on a national level and can be used for programmes in other sectors like agriculture, health, education and transportation.

Digitalisation is at the Centre of Modern Electrification

Rural electrification is not only about modules, inverters, batteries, electric cables or meters. It is also about digital generation and signals that need to be collected, transmitted, processed and used.

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Digitalisation is in the centre of modern electrification, also in countries with 100% grid coverage, but even more important in the improvement of access to electrification in rural areas, because, apart from the fact new generation technologies respond to electronic laws instead of electro-magnetically laws (as they used to do) and therefore grids need to be digitally managed, digitalisation is critical for generation/demand prediction, for user’s credit and pay as you go systems, for commercial managing of consumers, for systems protection, you name it…  

That is why at Entiba Energy, together with the development of an ambitious electrification programme in Zambia, we are developing a hardware/software system for demand/generation management. The development will be able to collect and manage real time data adjusting generation/grid stability/storage/demand. The software will include a prediction system that will use meteorological and user’s behaviour data to adjust system operation and protect it from facts as diverse as overheating, over-discharge of batteries, black-outs, vandalisms, or lack of payment.  The good news is that that when our system is in place substitutes other expensive hardware components and joined to the fact we are designing the whole system trying to keep it reliable and simple we are quite confident of being able of not to increase total mini-grid’s capex keeping its price but improving its functionalities.

We expect to have it ready for test by Q4 2021 and in commercial operation by Q2 2022.

About Entiba Energy: We are a young Spanish engineering, consulting company based on the quality work of its professional experts from different fields related to the energy industry. This allows the company to undertake each project from a multidisciplinary perspective attaining excellent results through innovative solutions, cost optimization and social and environmental sustainability.

Mini-grid-specific Software for Operation & Maintenance

True sustainability requires strong operations and maintenance to ensure that rural electrification goals are met not only at the ribbon cutting, but also 10 years down the road. Yet WhatsApp and Excel do not compose a robust maintenance platform.

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Calling all mini-grid developers and operators: does any of this sound familiar?

  • Your maintenance team is texting one another via WhatsApp to diagnose and troubleshoot problems with inverters
  • Your site monitoring consists of keeping at least four web pages open and manually monitoring them
  • One of the monitoring platforms triggered an alarm, so now you are WhatsApping someone you know near your installation to see if he can go look at the site.
  • In fact, there are frequently so many alerts your team is de-sensitised and often ignore the alerts, which has caused expensive problems when immediate action was needed.
  • You are planning to send a skilled electrician to your mini-grid, but unsure if you have the inventory there that he will need

If any of this is familiar, it may be time to explore affordable, mini-grid-specific software applications. 60 Hertz and Ferntech, increase your competitive advantage when it comes to mini-grid operations. Through Ferntech’s proprietary control algorithms which reduce diesel consumption and increase battery life, matched by 60 Hertz’s effective maintenance management software to get the most longevity out of your assets and empower your field staff.

Ferntech aggregates system data with their controller and is able to connect to equipment, such as inverters, generators and batteries or other power asset and controls them elegantly. Additionally, Ferntech is able to transmit equipment alerts and notifications to the cloud; however, unlike most monitoring platforms, Ferntech is able to send an alert directly to 60 Hertz to transform it into an actionable alert.

60 Hertz, the first mini-grid maintenance management software system to market, gets the most longevity out of your assets and empowers your field staff. Additionally, 60 Hertz seamlessly integrates with Ferntech ensuring every alert is actionable and coordinate tasks are tracked.

Here are examples of what an affordable, Operations & Maintenance system can do for your fleet of sites:

  • When an automated system has requested that when the battery state dips below 25% my generator should start. However, the generator failed to start after 1 min. Given current demand, please dispatch the onsite technician to see why the generator didn’t start.
  • Telemetry to my system was lost 48 hrs ago at 4am. At the time telemetry was lost, the battery state of charge was 35%. Since the battery was last seen in a discharged state, please dispatch someone who can follow the 60 Hertz troubleshooting routine to get the communications back online.
  • It’s 2 am and the engine temp suddenly exceeded 94 °C, dispatch someone immediately to the plant.
  • The diesel fuel tank is below a defined threshold. Please dispatch an operator to refill the diesel fuel tank.

The Ferntech/60 Hertz solution is turnkey. It is the easy button for developers who want to ensure uptime while minimising their costs. The platforms integrate monitoring from a host of hardware companies, makes control easy from a distance, and enable local personnel to be successful in their preventative maintenance routines, regardless of formal training or educational background. Reducing emergency site visits with Ferntech’s robust control technology and 60 Hertz’s visibility on personnel performance streamlines data-driven work orders and performance analytics.

Remote Controlled Small-Scale Water Desalination & Purification System for Use in Remote Areas

The balance between drinking water demand and water availability has reached a critical level in many regions of the world. Especially in coastal and desert areas of developing countries people suffer from increasingly salty water sources due to seawater intrusion or geodetic reasons.

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The desalination of brackish water sources (0.9% of total global water) is a promising process to tackle the drinking water challenges. Furthermore, most regions with water shortages are situated far from any kind of infrastructure and electricity grids.

Within the EU funded project REvivED water, Phaesun has developed a small-scale water desalination and purification system powered by photovoltaics designed for application in developing countries. The technology is based on the innovative concept of electrodialysis, offering many advantages compared to reverse osmosis and thermal technologies such as low energy consumption, low maintenance and low environmental impact since no chemicals are used.

With a drinking water production volume of up to 2500 l/d, the system is particularly suitable for scattered populations, small communities, schools, hospitals, and protected/touristic areas with sensitive ecosystems.

The treatment of the water proceeds several stages:

  • Pre-treatment: microfiltration and activated carbon to remove suspended matter, bacteria and organic substances.
  • Desalination: based on the innovative concept of capacitive electrodialysis. Suitable for conductivities between 1-10 ms/cm.
  • Post-treatment: in-situ chlorination by electrochemical activation preventing the drinking water from recontamination.
  • Concentrate disposal: adaptable to local conditions. Either disposal in the sewage system or use of an evaporation pond. The latter even allows the reuse of the precipitated salt.

The system is equipped with a modem that allows remote monitoring and control enabling fault diagnosis and intervention from any location in the world. Even in developing countries, GSM coverage is largely available in remote regions, so that there are hardly any restrictions on the place of application. The open source platform Grafana is used for monitoring of the performance data like water quality, flowrates, produced drinking water, energy consumption and PV power supply just to name a few of the parameters recorded. The system can be controlled remotely via the Procon interface. Besides an automatic mode, there is also a manual mode in which each pump and valve can be controlled individually. This makes fault diagnosis substantially easier, as the cause of failure can be located exactly. Experience in the field has shown that about 85% of failures can be fixed remotely, decreasing the required costs for maintenance and manpower to a minimum.

Since 2018, seven pilot plants have been installed in Somaliland, Djibouti, Tanzania and India. Thanks to the monitoring and control system, the performance could be tracked at any time and the system could be adapted to changing feed water parameters.


  • GET.invest Offers Business Advisory & Introduction to Relief Funds for Covid-19 Struck Companies

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    The Covid-19 pandemic has hit renewable energy companies worldwide and its effects put at risk what the community has ardently worked for in the past years: affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. While first repercussions are clear, future impacts and their temporal extend are yet unknown. To prepare and accompany project and business developers in these challenging times, GET.invest – supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria – has launched several tools.

    Companies operating in the African and Caribbean region can now apply for the newly launched Covid-19 window within GET.invest’s Finance Catalyst to receive business advisory for acute and critical finance-related problems. Dedicated advisors with extensive experience in renewable energy project development and finance provide advice on strategy including business continuity, business and financial structuring as well as financial modelling, access to finance support, and transaction advisory. For instance, advisory topics could include assistance with reviewing of business planning in light of financial consequences from Covid-19, understanding respective legal positions with regards to current financial obligations, as well as introductions to available relief and emergency funds. To provide effective support, GET.invest coordinates closely with other partners, including the Covid-19 relief fund.

    In collaboration with PFAN, GET.invest has created the Covid-19 Support Database which lists business advisory and financial support options offered by associations, impacts funds, international associations and programmes across the sector.

    In parallel to its Covid-19 response, GET.invest continues its standard services of market information, a funding database, as well as regular, long-term support to bring clean energy business opportunities to fruition. Find out more at

  • 13th Microgrid Global Innovation Forum (Virtual, 8-10 Sep 2020)

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    ARE is an Official Media Partner for the 13th Microgrid Global Innovation Virtual Forum, on 8-10 September 2020. The event brings together thought leaders, energy executives, and project managers from around the world for focused networking and information sharing concerning the design, implementation and operation of hybrid energy, renewables-centric microgrids. The emphasis is on maximising the effective use of sustainable distributed energy resources, refining the business model for a range of microgrid deployments, and sharing real-world case studies of noteworthy grid-tied, off-grid, island, and remote systems. 

    Due to the coronovirus situation, the event this year will be 100% online, and registration is free. 

    To sign up, visit

  • ARE Unveils the Winners of the ARE Awards 2020

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    The ARE Awards 2020 pay tribute to the most effective initiative and/or project implemented across six categories, as a means to highlight the clean energy access results achieved by the most passionate and innovative actors in the sector, as well as to further increase their impact by sharing latest knowledge to new stakeholders. Universal, reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy access for all is essential to empower people worldwide to decide the course of their lives – be it through education, health and socio-economic development.

    After careful analysis of the 77 applications received, the ARE Jury, formed by volunteering experts from African Development Bank, IRENA, GET.invest, REEEP, REN21, SACREEE, EU-Africa High Level Platform on Sustainable Energy investments and UNIDO and led by Claudio Pedretti (ARE President) as chair, is delighted to make the final results public to the world [see full presentation here].

    • Category 1. Multilateral / International Organisations

    IDCOL - Solar Mini-Grid Projects (Bangladesh)

    • Category 2: Public Bodies & Non-Profit Organisations

    We Care Solar - Light Every Birth (Liberia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone)

    • Category 3: Win-Win Partnerships

    Mlinda - Rural Electrification Project (India)

    • Category 4: Best De-Risking & Finance Scheme

    EDFI - EDFI ElectriFI (multiple countries)

    • Category 5: Best Start-Up

    ANKA Madagascar - Agribusiness Energy Nexus Business Model (Madagascar)

    • Category 6: Best Women Empowerment Initiative

    EarthSpark International - Scaling Smart, Solar, Energy Access Microgrids (Haiti)

    Download the press release

    ContactAmanda Soler

  • ARE Announces New Interim CEO

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    The Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) has announced that David Lecoque, formerly the Senior Manager Policy & Business Development at ARE, has been selected by the ARE Board of Directors to lead the association as interim CEO. The change of leadership and title is a response to the current challenges facing the industry and the Alliance’s evolving medium- and long-term strategy to enhance its support to the industry to face these challenges.

    Claudio Pedretti, ARE President“David Lecoque has been leading ARE’s Policy & Business Development work and was instrumental in positioning ARE as the leading global business association for decentralised renewable energy in rural areas. With his track record, the Board is confident he will continue to represent the interest of its Members and boost the sector at large.”

    David Lecoque takes over from Marcus Wiemann who served as ARE’s Executive Director since 2013. David builds on over eight years of experience in the renewable energy sector, specialising in policy, law and business development.

    Through his work, David provides streamlined business development services to more than 150 ARE Members (SME to blue chip corporates working along the renewable energy value chain), develops strategic and commercial partnerships, and advises governments and donors on how to improve market conditions to achieve clean energy access (SDG7) and broader sustainability in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

    Prior to ARE, David practised and qualified as a lawyer at the Brussels Bar, dealing principally with energy and environmental matters in top-tier law firms. In 2015 he was elected as one of Belgium’s 100 most inspiring and sustainable young professionals. He speaks English, French, Flemish and German.

    Speaking on his announcement, David Lecoque said“I am very excited to have the trust of the Board of Directors to lead ARE and support the decentralised renewable energy sector so that it can survive the current health crisis and flourish in the years to come. I look forward to taking ARE to the next level, so that together with all our Members and Partners, we can achieve clean energy access for all and build a climate safe future.”

    Download the English Press Release / Télécharger le communiqué de presse

  • Energy Access COVID-19 Relief Summit (Virtual, 15-16 Jul 2020)

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    It is with great pleasure that ARE and GOGLA, supported by GET.invest and in partnership with AMDAESMAPGDC and SEforALL, invite you to participate in our first-ever virtual Energy Access Summit!

    The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive shock for societies and economies around the world and threatens to reverse the enormous progress that off-grid energy companies have made in bringing power to 470 million people in the last decade. The pandemic especially jeopardises the survival of many micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs) companies that are essential for the energy access ecosystem in the short and medium term.

    Now more than ever, the off-grid sector requires accessible finance. This is why ARE and GOGLA have joined forces with GET.invest – a European programme supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria.

    Considering social distancing measures and travel restrictions imposed globally, this event will leverage existing digital technologies to bring together a multitude of relief providers, financing experts, sector leaders, enterprises, as well as philanthropies and public sector stakeholders.

    The 2-day event will feature:

    • Overview and presentations of relief instruments available
    • Discussions on the status quo of the energy access sector, as well as scenario risks and needs for companies
    • Interactive discussions on finance and relief needs and gaps, as well as on the future of the energy access sector
    • Virtual B2B matchmaking sessions to network and exchange in one-on-one sessions

     Register here

  • 6th ARE Energy Access Investment Forum (Lusaka, 23-24 Sep 2020)

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    The postponed 6th ARE Energy Access Investment Forum (EAIF) will take place at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia on 23-24 September 2020.

    EAIF is a well-established political exchange and business event organised by ARE with local and regional partners - aimed at assisting the private and public sector to get up to speed on the latest developments in the off-grid sector and do business.

    The ARE Forum is supported by our long-standing partner GET.invest, a European programme that mobilises renewable energy investments, as well as many important sponsors including the RES4Africa Foundation. The Forum will feature again GET.invest Business-to-Business (B2B) Matchmaking Session. The session will provide participants with an opportunity to connect with potential business partners, public and private investors and policymakers in a series of select personal meetings.

    The ARE Forum offers the opportunity:

    • for companies to showcase their innovative off-grid solutions, products and services to investors and partners at our exhibition;
    • for key public sector players to present their upcoming funding and de-risking programmes and policy initiatives;
    • to find your business partners and advance your projects through the B2B matchmaking session;
    • to discuss major sector trends and topics in the off-grid energy markets in Africa, where 95% of the rural population have no access to modern energy services; and
    • to add your experience and proposals to the international dialogue for cooperation.

    Contact: Ling Ng

  • ARE Position Paper: Off-Grid Renewable Energies to achieve SDG-7 and SDG-13: Cheaper, Cleaner and Smarter

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    The number of people without access to modern forms of electricity still remains at a level of almost 1 billion. Access levels are unevenly distributed with especially Sub-Saharan African countries tailing behind on ambitions to reach universal access to electricity by 2030. Significantly more investments are needed to achieve SDG-7 to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,” as well as SDG-13 to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”

    Until now what has been missing is evidence of the potential of off-grid technologies to achieve both SDG-7 and SDG-13 in a cheaper, cleaner and smarter manner than other alternatives.

    New evidence from the GIZ, Reiner Lemoine Institute and the greenwerk. study Off-Grid Renewable Energy for Climate Action is without ambiguity: off-grid renewable energy solutions, such as clean energy mini-grids and solar home systems have significant environmental, practical, economic and socio-economic merits over grid expansion.

    Off-grid renewables are vastly superior to its competitors on three parameters:

    1. Cheaper cost of deployment
    2. Cleaner than grid extension
    3. Smarter, faster and more reliable
  • REN21: Renewables 2020 Global Status Report

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    This year’s Renewables 2020 Global Status Report (GSR) reveals an increase in demand for renewable power, yet the growth in total energy demand outweighs the progress. ARE Partner REN21 warns that if the entire energy system remains the same, the energy transition cannot occur and the world’s hunger for fossil fuels will continue to increase.

    ARE takes a closer look into Chapter 4: Distributed Renewables for Energy Access (DREA), where ARE and its Members have been working together to scale up off-grid projects. This year, the GSR reveals a dip in off-grid investments by 41.6% but an increase in the bankability of mini-grid projects, with capital flows doubling to USD 113 million.

    Worldwide, the number of people lacking access to electricity dropped to 860 million (11% of the global population) in 2018. DREA systems are present in both urban and rural areas of the developing world and provide a wide range of services, including for lighting, appliances, cooking, space heating and cooling, and productive uses. They represent a key solution for fulfilling modern energy needs and enabling the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people who still lack access to electricity or clean cooking solutions.In addition, renewable energy (mostly hydropower) supplied, either entirely or partially, around half of the 19,000 mini-grids installed worldwide by the end of 2019. Mini-grids and stand-alone systems are considered to be the least-cost option for providing electricity access to nearly half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

  • IEA, IRENA, UNSD, WB & WHO: Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report 2020

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    The world has made promising progress towards ensuring universal access to sustainable energy over the last decade. The number of people without access to electricity fell from 1.2 billion globally in 2010 to 789 million in 2018. Renewable energy solutions have been instrumental, with more than 136 million people receiving basic electricity services via off-grid renewables by 2018. Still, unless efforts are stepped up significantly, an estimated 620 million people would remain without access to electricity in 2030 – a number that could become even higher with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The ability of countries to invest in sustainable energy access varies widely. Enhanced co-operation is vital to support those most in need – especially amid the COVID-19 crisis. The 2020 edition introduces tracking for a new indicator, 7.A.1, on international financial flows to developing countries in support of clean and renewable energy. Total international public flows reached USD 21.4 billion in 2017, double the level in 2010. Yet only 12% of such financial flows reached the least-developed countries, which could face the greatest challenges in achieving SDG targets.

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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