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Report: End energy poverty faster with policies supporting distributed renewables

Power for All is an advocacy organization working to achieve universal access to sustainable, cost-effective energy in the next decade. But they aren't advocating the traditional approach, which is to extend the centralized electric grid. Rather, their research suggests investing in decentralized renewable energy (DRE) will get the job done faster. And as you'll read below, they recommend several policies to help governments make it happen. With more than a billion people around the world still without access to energy, it certainly makes sense to explore all options. – Philip Bane


A year ago, Power for All released a report that concluded ending energy poverty by 2030 -- the focus of UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 -- can only be achieved for the rural poor by accelerating investment in decentralized renewable energy. These solutions include mini-grids and rooftop solar.

"The grid had 100 years to get it right. It had its day," Kristina Skierka, Power for All’s campaign director and report co-author said in a Greentech Media article. Skierka suggested that distributed renewable energy catalyzes the interests of many different renewable energy companies as well as consumers.

"If we make the tent bigger about solving the problem, can we get there faster? Absolutely, we can," she added.

Leadership required
Just recently Power for All released a new report -- Decentralized Renewables: From Promise to Progress – that builds on those findings, with a focus on the need for policy leadership alongside increased access to finance.

The latest report centers on analysis from the Platform for Energy Access Knowledge (PEAK), a joint project between the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Power for All campaign. PEAK examined policies of five high-growth DRE markets -- India and Bangladesh in Asia, and Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia in Africa -- to identify trends in energy policy that will help other countries replicate success.

5 key policy levers
The report cites five key policy levers that triggered success:

  • Reduction of import duties and tariffs on DRE related products
  • Support for the availability of local finance through loans and grants and microfinance
  • Establishment of energy access targets or national commitments to electrification
  • Establishment of rural electrification plans or programs that incorporate DRE
  • Technical regulation through established licensing procedures for mini-grid operators and through adoption of quality standards for products and services

But how do governments make that happen? The report offers three recommendations for policy implementation and processes:

  • Setting the target -- include decentralized renewables in national policies and rural electrification plans
  • Ending the implementation gap -- institute decentralized energy in integrated energy planning so that grid extension, mini-grids and standalone systems are given equal consideration
  • Instituting collaborative policy design -- DRE multi-stakeholder-led policy-making that includes government, private sector, funding and civil society actors

More on overcoming energy poverty:
Schneider Electric video: Access to Energy for People Living in Off-Grid Areas in India
Why public-private partnerships can help solve energy poverty
UK councils partner on solar-plus-storage pilot to reduce fuel poverty

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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