Laying the Groundwork to Deliver on Clean Energy Access

David Lecoque, CEO, ARE

Energy Access in West Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Clean Energy Mini-grids

Bah Saho, Acting Executive Director, ECREEE

The world is witnessing great strides in the provision of sustainable energy services, with this progress being inspired by higher energy demand, increasing energy costs, particularly fossil fuels, the adverse environmental costs and digitalisation, the latter two factors playing a major role in this transformation. 

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Given the important role that energy plays and its strong links to other development factors, the set of Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda includes a dedicated goal on energy - SDG7. The goal aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030. This objective, especially in the rural areas, cannot be achieved without concerted and innovative solutions. Mini-grids based on renewable energy and decentralised autonomous solutions remain the most appropriate option for supplying electricity to rural populations who would otherwise not be served in the foreseeable future owing to the lack of incentives for investment in rural energy services.

It is therefore critical to establish robust partnerships to evaluate and promote key financial, business and policy solutions to overcoming the major barriers to the growth of clean energy mini-grids (CEMGs) in Africa, particularly in West Africa. Across the region, there is a clear need to streamline policy and regulatory frameworks in order to support the uptake of CEMG by increasing awareness, sharing best practices, including integrated electrification plans, standards and quality assurance, business models, contractual agreements, financial mechanisms, and regional engagement.

The regional ecosystem for the sustainable growth of the CEMG industry must also be developed. Without a support ecosystem in place, the sector will continue to struggle to meet the promises of a sustainable and inclusive growth. The ecosystem approach will create a mechanism where various actors of the value-chain are able to convene to contribute to socio-economic development. The ecosystem, consisting of, among others, government actors, development partners, manufacturing, assembling, distribution, repair and maintenance, other after sales services, as well as lending and micro credit businesses should have a platform for collaboration and knowledge-sharing. This collaboration will foster efforts to address various key barriers, including capital investment subsidies, fixed assets responsibility, market-intelligence, cost reflective tariffs, entrepreneurship support facility, procurement, capacity building, and sustainability.   

The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) is working with a broad coalition of partners to address these challenges. In furtherance of this effort, ECREEE, in partnership with ARE, the global decentralised renewable energy industry association, is organising the 4th Edition of the annual ECOWAS Sustainable Energy Forum (ESEF2020) on the 24-26 November 2020. The event is supported by GET.invest, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). The event also sees Energy Catalyst as sponsor and IRENA as strategic partner. The Forum will raise awareness about the progress made by ECOWAS Member States toward achieving sustainable energy targets set for 2030. It will also focus on “recovering wiser” by showcasing the need for sustainable energy in the COVID-19 response and recovery.


Increasing Crop Yields with ANKA’s Collaborative AgriGrid Approach

ANKA is a woman led Malagasy impact company, specialised in developing and delivering modern, reliable, clean, sustainable and affordable energy solutions for rural and isolated communities, as well as individuals and industrials. Notably, ANKA is a leader in rural electrification by solar PV energy in Madagascar. The company truly believes in the power of electricity to strengthen people and communities.

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Its mission is to build rural wealth while increasing access to modern electricity thanks to a “mini-grid 3.0” approach which boosts

  1. rural economy and growth,
  2. rural electricity consumption, and ultimately
  3. the financial and economic viability of mini-grid investments.

From small and franchised mini-grids for small and isolated sites, to larger mini-grid sized for rural towns and semi-industrial development, ANKA is a driving force in development, design, installation and above all operation, all over Madagascar. But keeping in mind the innovation challenges that will enable the off-grid sector to be more efficient, impactful and sustainable, ANKA develops innovative models and services such as the AgriGrid model, access to water, clean cooking or green mobility.

With AgriGrid, ANKA consolidates existing solar and IT technologies in an experimental ag-energy nexus business model. AgriGrid is meant to span the enhancement of yields, creation of new food and ag products through value-addition, creation and facilitation of market linkages, and optimization of storage, packaging, logistics, and sales. Core to the AgriGrid model is the creation of a community organisation, led by women associations, that both convenes farmers and manages the sharing of agribusiness profits to support PAEGC’s objective of accelerating the development and deployment of clean energy innovations that improve agricultural productivity.

In order to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ANKA designs, develops and implements projects and solutions that aim to fight against inequalities and the impacts of climate change, to raise awareness among stakeholders - beneficiaries or decision-makers - and to initiate innovative and alternative economic models. In its journey, ANKA collaborates in particular with innovative partners such as atmosfair gGmbH, a German non-profit organisation that actively contributes to CO₂ mitigation by promoting and developing renewable energies in over 15 countries worldwide.

The projects of ANKA and atmosfair are innovative illustrations of intra-ARE partnerships (ANKA and atmosfair are both members) and oriented towards the measurable realisation of SDGs.

Let’s Listen to Locals: How Involvement of Communities Paves the Way for Clean Cooking Solutions

Electric cooking might be the answer to the negative health and environment implications of cooking with traditional biomass. It has become cost-effective and feasible in recent years. Most plans to date however have overlooked people and their needs, let alone involved them in the process. This has hampered progress. Hence, an inclusive process has to start now.

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Policy actors, investors, private sector and NGO’s have focused mainly on the hardware and economics of clean cooking solutions. They developed new (user-friendly) appliances, increased supply and cut costs for costumers. The missing link for a successful cooking transition however is the attention for the personal, social and cultural habits that come with cooking. The transition requires people to change their daily routine, including adopting new cooking technologies and even cooking different foods. And as much as policy actors, investors, private sector and NGO’s in the field try to understand this reality on the ground, there is only so much they can do without the involvement of communities.

With this in mind, Hivos commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to conduct a case study with rural households in Kenya aimed at hearing from people how they envision a 100% electric cooking future and co-developing a transition pathway towards this vision.

The study indeed shows that communities have a huge role to play in a transition process that concerns them. The individual participants in the study stressed the need for the community itself to be the driver of change. Furthermore, “This study showed that, given a platform and some simple visioning tools, citizens are more than capable of describing complex transition pathways towards their desired future,” says Fiona Lambe, Research Fellow at SEI. “It highlights the capability and agency of people who are typically only on the receiving end of large development programs. Suddenly we see how a community’s own resources, relationships and capacities could drive the transition to electric cooking.”

As a consequence, the study concluded that the clean cooking transition should start by empowering villagers, by working with early adapters, and by building the know-how and confidence of the community to engage with government entities to access key services.

The study further explains that NGOs can play a crucial role in introducing new cooking transition technologies, demonstrating mini grids and training communities, but the community and specifically the early adopters of these technologies are those who can make this change real.

Governments and development partners, in turn, are called upon to spur progress on multiple levels, from public services and large-scale infrastructure to full electrification, to improved education and health facilities. All these sectors are profoundly interlinked and require cross-sectoral cooperation.

Surprisingly, the private sector was not mentioned explicitly. However, it can be stated that involving communities in the clean cooking transition can pave the way and create a friendly business environment for them to invest and market their products.  

The study is an initial step towards stressing the need of building knowledge on the behavioural and cultural aspects of transitions to cooking with electricity. Governments and donors must consider the household and community perspective, how the transition to electric cooking is perceived locally, and take actions based on the role and responsibilities of various actors engaged in the system, from the household to civil society to the private sector.

Amplifying Voices: Strengthening Rural Electric Service Providers in Uganda

Seven voices are stronger than one. Especially if you’re a small rural electric service provider in Uganda, and consistently face challenges that can threaten your long-term survival. NRECA International developed a business plan to form the Uganda Rural Electric Distributors Association (UREDA) to help amplify the voices of its founding members -- seven small rural utilities. UREDA is designed to help improve daily operations, financial sustainability, and quality of service – something that they are less capable of providing as small regulated rural utilities.

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This business plan was recently presented to the Uganda Rural Electrification Agency (REA), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), who funded the project through the Cooperative Development Program. The goal? To create an environment that can help rural electric utilities survive, succeed and ultimately expand affordable, reliable and safe electricity access to more consumers in the rural areas of the country.

Helping the small become mighty

Rural electric utilities commonly don’t have the capacity to grow, let alone increase their knowledge bank on how to hone their technical skills and quality of service. Instead, the small teams at these utilities find themselves making do with whatever resources they have and struggling to meet the needs of their consumers. They often fall into the trap of being too small to invest in what is necessary to improve their capacity to grow their businesses.

UREDA’s mission will be to help these small entities gain a common voice in the halls of Government in Kampala, build more capacity to efficiently manage operations, gain stronger negotiation power with suppliers, and also reduce revenue losses due to power theft and frequent power outages.

Assessing needs and priorities

NRECA International is drawing upon its leadership in creating and supporting other common service associations like UREDA to create a successful environment for its members. This includes decades-old relationships with the cooperative movement in the Philippines (Rural Electrification Finance Corporation), Costa Rica (Consortium of Costa Rica Electric Cooperatives), and extensive experience with national, regional and statewide rural electric cooperative associations in the U.S.

In Uganda, the NRECA International team involved stakeholders at all levels to identify the following priorities that need to be addressed, and eventually include them in the association’s member services and programs:

  • Training and capacity building that includes safety and skills training for lineworkers, utility staff and board of directors.
  • Accelerating electricity connections under the country’s Electricity Connections Policy which includes implementing an affordable house wiring program.
  • Joint procurement of equipment and materials.
  • Advocacy and representation of each member organization to promote and lobby key government policies and programs that impact them.
  • Revenue protection to reduce non-technical loss and control power outages.
  • Provide off-grid electrification services to accelerate universal electricity access in the services territories.

A solid foundation for the future

The need for solid footing is clear – without one, these small utilities will not survive in the long-term, which ultimately will not help the government of Uganda meet its universal energy access goals, or the needs of its population to advance and improve their lives. The NRECA International team has laid out a financially viable path for these rural utilities that will set the stage for an association that can grow sustainably, and more importantly, help strengthen these utilities by teaching them how to work together.


  • 13th Microgrid Global Innovation Forum (Virtual, 7 Sep 2020)

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    MGIF brought 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.

    ARE presented best practices and delivery models for health care electrification projects around the world.

    Contact: Jens Jaeger

  • Climate Parliament: The UNIDO Mini-grid Policy Decision Tree (Virtual, 16-17 Sep 2020)

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    The UNIDO decision tree is designed to guide political decision-makers in selecting the appropriate delivery model to assure an efficient mini-grid roll-out. ARE presented mini-grids recommendations to over 50 African national parliamentarians in English and French in a virtual event organised by the Pan-African Parliament.

    Contact: David Lecoque

  • World Energy Storage Day (Virtual, 22 Sep 2020)

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    WESD is a global initiative to celebrate and create awareness about energy storage technologies, applications and to catalyse the market growth.

    Thanks to ARE's partnership with the India Energy Storage Alliance, ARE moderated a panel discussion zooming in on energy storage solutions for energy access.

    Contact: David Lecoque

  • David Lecoque to Lead as New ARE CEO

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    ARE is pleased to announce that David Lecoque has been selected by the Board of Directors to lead the decentralised renewable energy (DRE) industry association as CEO. The decision comes after three months of transition where David Lecoque served as interim CEO.

    The confirmation of leadership is an acknowledgement of the major strides that ARE has made in the last few months and underpins ARE’s renewed vigour to unite the DRE sector and create concrete value for its fast-growing membership (170+ and counting); to work with governments and development partners on improving market conditions to achieve clean energy access (SDG7); and build win-win partnerships on the national and regional level, including with national DRE business associations.

    Claudio Pedretti, ARE President“ARE has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 2006. Today, ARE enjoys over 170 members. It is ARE’s vision that by 2030 everyone in the world and in particular all rural people in low-and medium income countries should have access to affordable, secure and clean energy and energy services. With the confirmation of David Lecoque’s leadership at ARE, the Board is confident that he will continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, represent the interest of its members and boost the DRE sector at large.”

    Contact: David Lecoque

  • Women Entrepreneurs as Key Drivers in the DRE Sector (Webinar, 24 Sep 2020)

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    Energy and gender equality are key drivers for development and economic growth.

    Women empowerment and entrepreneurship are important sources of growth, prosperity and poverty reduction with positive impacts on families and children, health and nutrition, communities and the national economy at large.

    At the intersection of gender equality, clean energy access and sustainable economic development, it is fundamental that women are supported and encouraged to engage in all stages of the decentralised renewable energy (DRE) space: at customer, company and investor levels and that the contributions of women to the energy access sector are recognised. As such, the socio-economic empowerment of women should be strongly encouraged and facilitated to foster gender balance in the sector and unlock its benefits for the long-term sustainable development of rural communities in developing countries.

    ARE Members, as well as ENERGIA and UNIDO, shared best practices from innovative entrepreneurs embedding gender in their business models in the webinar organised by ARE with the support of GET.invest, thus spurring discussion on best practices to promote gender equality in the DRE sector to 230 participants.

    Contact: Jens Jaeger

  • ECOWAS Sustainable Energy Forum (Virtual, 24-26 Nov 2020)

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    ECREEE will be hosting the fourth edition of the annual ECOWAS Sustainable Energy Forum (ESEF) on 24-26 November 2020.

    ESEF 2020 will raise awareness about the progress made by ECOWAS member states toward achieving sustainable energy targets set for 2030. It will also focus on achieving the vision of the ECOWAS for a prosperous regional sustainable energy market, which is contingent upon harnessing the region’s vast renewable energy potential.

    The event will be organised in partnership with ARE, the global decentralised renewable energy industry  association, and supported by GET.invest, a European programme which mobilises investments in decentralised renewable energy, supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria.

    Now more than ever, addressing the energy gaps facing the region must be at the forefront of all development efforts.  This year’s ESEF is special in many ways as it coincides with two landmark events, namely, the 10-year anniversary of ECREEE and the global pandemic of COVID-19. The agenda will therefore have special focus on the role of sustainable energy in COVID-19 response and recovery.

    • Register
    • Sponsor: ECREEE and ARE have designed exclusive sponsor packages, enabling interested stakeholders to gain high visibility at this leading event

    Contact: Jens Jaeger

  • OFF-GRID Expo + Conference (Augsburg, 3-4 Dec 2020)

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    ARE is pleased to be the conference partner of the OFF-GRID Expo + Conference.

    We are currently receiving a lot of positive feedback from exhibitors and other market participants, which gives us tailwind for the first major off-grid event in December after the lockdown. The industry is urging to meet again this year live and physically. Messe Augsburg has done everything necessary to meet all hygiene requirements to put together an event with a high-quality content.

    Follow the latest news on travel restrictions in Germany.

    10% discount on tickets for ARE followers

    As a participant of the OEC Conference you enjoy full access to all lectures of the OEC Conference incl. catering, as well as the OEC Expo and OEC TechDay the day before (2 Dec 2020). ARE followers enjoy 10% discount when you use the code 10OEC001 at checkout. We recommend purchasing your tickets online.

    Contact: Ling Ng

  • ECREEE: The Impact of COVID-19 on the ECOWAS Energy Sector

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    COVID-19 presents a major concern for the global energy sector. Across the globe there has been major disruptions in the energy sector including decline in energy demand, disruption in supply chain and delays in implementation of projects. Various regional challenges are also emerging as energy impacts become more apparent. In the ECOWAS region, COVID-19 complicates efforts to attain the targets of the ECOWAS Regional Sustainable Energy Policies adopted in July 2013.

    This brief highlights the major energy sector impacts of the pandemic in the ECOWAS region which are also similar to other regions and include, decline in energy demand, disruption in supply chain and overall the disruption and revision of energy sector projects and strategies. The brief also notes that ECOWAS region must face the fact that without adequate energy, it is much harder to sustain measures needed to fight the COVID-19 Virus and as such, ECREEEs role in improving access to modern, reliable, and affordable energy services becomes more important.

  • Triple Jump: Mezzanine Financing for the Access to Energy Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa

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