Recovering from COVID-19: Putting the Turbo on the DRE Sector

David Lecoque, CEO, ARE

Supporting Sustainable Energy Projects & Companies in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Michael Franz, Team Leader, GET.invest

A challenging year lies behind us. Looking back, it appears that while the worst fears and projections did not materialise, companies across the sustainable energy sector felt the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: livelihoods of customers and thus ability to pay were affected, leading to cash flow and liquidity issues. In addition, companies faced supply chain disruptions and challenges in accessing capital, in particular until financiers had adapted their processes, for example with regards to due diligence.

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Nonetheless, the sector proved altogether resilient, with many companies finding ways to adapt quickly. The donor community and funders also responded at best pace. At GET.invest, we joined these efforts, adapting our services and teaming up with many partners and peers to stay operational ourselves, and to add value in the new situation. By moving events with partners to the digital space on very short notice, we enabled networking and continued peer-to-peer exchanges such as the virtual Energy Access COVID-19 Relief Summit, organised by ARE and GOGLA, which brought together over 1,300 participants, as well as many other events since. We also made available a toolbox for business continuity and cashflow management, launched a database with COVID-19 related support sources in partnership with the Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN), and started new collaborations to mobilise capital for the sector, for instance with the Energy Access Relief Fund (EARF) managed by SIMA.

Our advisory support to companies and projects in the sector did not slow down but has actually taken up substantially. Through a dedicated COVID-19 window, our advisory facility, the GET.invest Finance Catalyst, provides fast-tracked business continuity and access-to-finance advisory services to companies in need of urgent support. Overall, we are observing a sustained and strong dynamic of project and business development and a subsequent demand for our support offering – a trend that is encouraging, and unbroken to this day.  In the middle of a pandemic, we have for the first time reached the milestone of 100 simultaneously supported clients. This cuts across many different models and countries, featuring a robust mix of on-grid projects, the rapidly developing commercial & industrial segment, mini-grids, off-grid solar and productive use, as well as clean cooking.

This is possible not least due to a network of dedicated partners such as ARE, and thanks to the support of our donors – the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria. GET.invest remains ready and available to support many more projects and businesses in adapting, accessing finance, and flourishing in the wake of the pandemic. Every crisis is an opportunity – and it is our privilege to support “building back better” to the best of our abilities.


Electricity Access for Healthcare Facilities: a COVID-19 Success Story

COVID-19 has turned the world that we knew upside down and we are gently recovering from the shake. The pandemic has placed us at a crossroad. With healthcare systems struggling and the world at home dependent as never before on their energy systems.

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One of the main COVID-19 treatments in critical care involves the delivery of oxygen for respiratory support. Oxygen has become a key element in the supply chain for respiratory care for patients with severe cases of COVID-19.

But it is not only clean energy we are speaking of. A stable, continuous, reliable and faultless service is crucial to offer the best conditions for health recoveries. We would like to share two success stories that have at this critical moment, punctuated the role of electricity in powering medical services.

Hospital San Juan de Dios in Puerto Carreño (Colombia) suffered constant power outages, energy rationing and intermittence before installing a 19 kWp photovoltaic system with batteries and Studer power electronics. Thanks to this installation, an oxygen generation plant manufactured by SEPAL International generates 95% pure oxygen to treat patients who suffer from COVID-19 related respiratory infections.

“The hybrid solar solution developed generates electrical energy to power the oxygen generating plant, the cylinder filling stations and the medical gas distribution network system. It has literally saved lives” says Luis Silva from Prosolar, a developer company for this project.

Gases Unidos is a Venezuelan company that refills and supplies oxygen tanks for medical use. The unexpected power cuts in the area interrupted the operation of the headquarters and its subsidiaries, so they had to find a solution.

“The proposal was to install a backup system with lithium battery technology to provide back-up energy to the company's servers, which allowed the communication of its servers and the administrative continuity of the other headquarters” explains José Romano from Enersolar, a developer and installer.

We have a chance in the economic recovery from COVID-19. Energy access has proven to be life-saving during this pandemic, and it is an excellent opportunity for governments to push the clean energy transition.

Visit Studer and experience the simplicity of power


Totota: Power to Keep the Community Healthy & Safe

According to World Health Organization data, Liberia has had about 2,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and less than 100 deaths. While these numbers are better compared to many other countries, the world knows these numbers are not strong indicators of what lies ahead.

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In the town of Totota, located about 130 kilometres from the capital of Monrovia, the Ebola virus is not a distant memory for the population of 6,400. There were about 10,000 Ebola cases in the country, and almost 5,000 people died from this virus. After Ebola was officially declared under control, the people in Totota knew well that reliable electricity is key for better access to healthcare and fighting pandemics.

Laying the foundation for fighting a pandemic

In 2017, NRECA International helped the community to form the Totota Electric Cooperative (TEC). Made possible by funding from NRECA International, support from the U.S. Agency for the International Development (USAID), and volunteers from America’s electric cooperatives, electricity is generated from a solar/diesel hybrid mini-grid that will ultimately provide service to about 2,000 people.

On June 11, officials from USAID and Liberia’s Rural & Renewable Energy Agency, travelled to Totota to join other government dignitaries to celebrate TEC’s new status as a licensed power provider, becoming only the second legal power supplier in Liberia, after the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) the government utility.

Today, the town has three clinics, two pharmacies and two new cold storage businesses, setting the stage not just for population and economic growth, but also laying the foundation to provide critical healthcare services. So far, COVID-19 cases in Totota are very low and contained, and there have been no outbreaks, unlike the densely populated Monrovia, which has experienced the highest number of cases in the country. However, Totota is located along a major transportation corridor that connects Liberia to the Ivory Coast, making it an ideal rest-stop for travellers before they continue their long journey through many towns without electricity – potentially an ideal location for COVID-19 to spread.

Better healthcare requires reliable power

Totota is now better equipped to provide better healthcare services to its community than it was during the Ebola outbreak. Thanks to TEC, today, the clinics can use equipment to diagnose common disease and recommend possible treatments. And when COVID-19 vaccines are available the clinics and two new pharmacies will be ready to administer them to the community.

“Electricity provides lighting all day, so nurses and clinic administrators don't have to worry about turning on generators. Testing can be done anytime, and pharmacies can conform to drug storage temperature requirements,” said Sekou Dukulay, the Salala District Health Officer who works at the Totota Public Clinic. “The electricity also has helped the clinics to reduce their operation costs by eliminating the need to purchase highly-priced gasoline/fuel to run generators for the clinics' operation.”

With NRECA International’s help, TEC became self-sufficient in less than two years. Today, as a licensed micro-utility, they serve as a potential model for other off-grid locations in the country that can demonstrate how a small private sector entity can provide electrical services in compliance with Liberian regulations. And in turn, they can help expand the ability for other communities to grow and improve their economies and healthcare services, creating future success stories that others can learn from.

  • Building EU-India Technology Partnerships to Promote DRE as Source of Reliable Energy Access to Power Rural India

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    The Business Support to the EU-India Policy Dialogues Project organised a webinar on 11 May to mobilise key stakeholders, such as private sector project developers and investors, state nodal agencies and public officials who wish to pilot and invest into innovative and productive DRE projects in the region of Uttar Pradesh. ARE was invited to speak on 'Fast-Tracking Rural Electrification through accelerated and precise mini-grid policy formulation.'

  • ARE & REAN Sign MoU to Improve Renewable Energy Access in Nigeria

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    An MoU has been signed between the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) and ARE. The MoU sets out the shared goals of the two organisations to address the various existing barriers hindering access to DRE in Nigeria.

    The associations will work together on a number of activities, including joint advocacy to create a conducive market environment for 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.

  • Nearly 870m People Still Have No Access to Electricity, Say Experts at Middle East Energy

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    Despite the tremendous progress made in accelerating access to electricity, nearly 870 million people across the globe still lack access to electricity, said top industry heavyweights on the opening day of Middle East Energy in Dubai on 31 May.

    ARE reiterated the message that more needs to be done to ensure universal energy access.

  • Addressing bankability of DRE projects at the 14th German African Energy Forum

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    ARE spoke at a panel of high-profile sector experts at the 14th German-Africa Energy Forum on 1-2 Jun about the bankability of renewable energy projects in Africa and highlighted the need to tailor the financial instruments to the specific needs of the DRE sector and its novel business models and to design adequate risk mitigation tools to de-risk the projects and crowd in increased private sector capital.

  • Catalysing Private Sector Investments in Decentralised Renewables to Close the Energy Access Gap

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    The side event was organised as part of the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy: Ministerial Thematic Forums on 21 Jun. The session which attracted 170 participants and featured top financiers in the energy access space focused on how to further mobilise private sector investments in energy access and also shed a light on the need for investment readiness support for DRE companies to absorb investments in the sector.

  • CEO David Lecoque announces ARE’s Bold Energy Compact at the UN HLDE2021 Ministerial Forums

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    As part of its Energy Compact, ARE has pledged to enable the private sector to deliver sustainable electricity services to at least 500 million additional people in its three focus regions, catalyse the creation of at least 5 million green jobs, and avoid at least 1 billion tonnes of CO2e emissions by 2030.

    The announcement was made on 23 June at the Energy Transition Day of the Ministerial Thematic Forums for the High-level Dialogue on Energy. The Forums are part of an effort to engage governments, businesses, and financial institutions to develop “Energy Compacts” that spell out plans to ensure universal access to clean, affordable energy for all (SDG-7) by 2030 and a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050.

    David Lecoque, CEO of ARE stated that: “With this Compact, ARE demonstrates the commitment of the entire DRE sector to achieve sustainable universal electrification, generate massive green job creation and fight climate change. Hundreds of millions of people and businesses are already powered by DRE, but much more is needed to reach the goals latest by 2030. We therefore call on all public, private and philanthropic stakeholders to reach out and work with ARE to jointly achieve these concrete objectives without delay.”

  • SEFEA Demonstrates Decentralised Renewables Will Remain a Cornerstone to Achieve East Africa’s Energy Targets

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    Organised by the East African Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy and Efficiency (EACREEE) and the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), the 2nd edition of the Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa (SEFEA) took place virtually from 22 to 24 June 2021. The event was supported by GET.invest, a European programme supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria; and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It was held in English and French with simultaneous translations.

    More than 1,150 participants from 90 countries joined this major event. Over 50 experts brought deep insights into the role of decentralised renewable energies (DRE) in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the East African Community (EAC) region.

    The massive deployment of decentralised renewables promises to deliver vast socio-economic benefits in the EAC region, creating jobs, mitigating climate change, improving healthcare and education, as well as boosting energy security. To achieve this, major public and private sector investments are required. A high-level panel, featuring UNIDO, Ministries of Energy of Uganda and Kenya, the Austrian Development Cooperation, the African Development Bank and PowerGen, discussed current challenges on how to scale such investments in the EAC, and shared public and private sector perspectives on how to solve these issues.

    The event featured presentations from the public sector, corporate and civil society stakeholders interactive topical discussions on energy efficient lighting & appliances, innovative financing of productive uses of energy & cold chain and clean cooking in the EAC region as well as pitches from private sector companies and start-ups offering innovative DRE solutions and business models. Over 300 virtual 1:1 meetings already took place during the GET.invest Matchmaking, which will last until 30 June. In addition, ARE, for the first-time, highlighted DRE in Burundi by hosting a dedicated deep-dive workshop.

    Press release

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

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    The Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) and Green People's Energy have the pleasure to invite you to participate in the webinar on "Stimulating Demand for Productive Use of Renewable Energy Solutions in Local Communities" at 14.00-15.30 CEST on 7 July 2021.

    The webinar is part of ‘Paving the way for Clean Energy Transition with Decentralised Renewable Energy (PWCET) Series.’

    Decentralised renewable energy (DRE) solutions have the potential to drive green, sustainable and inclusive rural transformation, reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods and climate resilience of rural populations as they provide access to affordable, reliable and clean energy. PURE can be a significant driver of economic growth and social progress in developing countries.

    The webinar will dive into what it takes to stimulate demand for and an uptake of PURE solutions in rural communities and will under a holistic approach address the different aspects of the PURE ecosystem. The speakers will delve into the challenges and barriers, present examples of innovative solutions and highlight the opportunities of productive use activities to improve the livelihoods of rural communities.

    Register now

  • [Invite] Intersolar Europe: Off-Grid Conference (20 Jul)

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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 is organising Session 2. 

    ARE Members can apply their discount code at checkout.

    Get your tickets

  • [Invite] 14th Microgrid Global Innovation Forum (London, 7-9 Sep)

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    Optimising hybrid renewable energy microgrids for off-grid and grid-tied environments

    The 14th edition of the Microgrid Global Innovation Forum focuses on microgrid advances, case studies and applications in Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. Organised by the Smart Grid Observer, the event draws hundreds of industry professionals from around the world interested in maximising the effective use of renewable and distributed energy resources, refining the positive business model for microgrid deployments, and sharing real-world case studies in both grid-tied and off-grid/remote environments.

    ARE Members get 20% discount.

  • [Save-the-date] OFF-GRID Expo + Conference (Augsburg, 1-2 Dec)

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    Don’t miss the OFF-GRID Expo + Conference 2021 - the unique, international hotspot for the entire off-grid community. Let’s meet again face-to-face in Augsburg! Here is the platform for innovations and practical exchange of experience and know-how. The interactive infortainment format offers all experts several touchpoints like the exhibition, opportunities for networking and matchmaking, education mile, start-up hub and more. The high-quality conference programme is organised in cooperation with ARE.

    Be part of OFF-GRID Expo + Conference 2021 and apply now!

    ARE Members enjoy special conditions!

    Contact: Ling Ng

  • ARE: Phonebook - Actors of the Renewable Energy Sector in Togo

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    ARE together with GIZ ProEnergie in Togo is proud to announce the publication of the phonebook for actors of the renewable energy sector in Togo. The phonebook gathers key local stakeholders such as government bodies, local companies, associations, and civil society. 

    The Togo DRE Phonebook is an online publication that serves as a directory to help stakeholders active or interested in the Togolese decentralised renewable energy sector to connect with each other and hence to facilitate business exchange and rural electrification projects in Togo.



  • IEA, IRENA, UN DESA, World Bank & WHO: Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report 2021

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    During the last decade, a greater share of the global population gained access to electricity than ever before, but the number of people without electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa actually increased. Unless efforts are scaled up significantly in countries with the largest deficits the world will still fall short of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030, according to Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report.

    According to the report, significant progress has been made since 2010 on various aspects of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, but progress has been unequal across regions. While more than one billion people gained access to electricity globally over the last decade, COVID’s financial impact has made basic electricity services unaffordable for 30 million more people, the majority located in Africa.

  • REN21: Renewables 2021 Global Status Report

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    The new report shows the alarming gap between targets and actions:

    • 15 G20 countries lack a 2020 target for renewable energy covering all sectors
    • Fossil fuel share in energy consumption has not decreased for 10th consecutive year
    • Renewable electricity outcompetes existing coal

    2020 could have been a gamechanger. Economies worldwide were ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Primary energy demand fell by 4%. But even with this historic decline, G20 countries, the planet’s biggest polluters, barely met or even missed their unambitious renewable energy targets. But the benefits of renewables in terms of health, climate and job creation are indisputable. REN21’s Renewables 2021 Global Status Report shows that we are nowhere near the necessary paradigm shift towards a clean, healthier and more equitable energy future.

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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