World Bank supports the global rollout of distributed renewable energy in Africa | Infrastructure news

Achieving universal access to energy by 2030, both in Africa and globally, relies heavily on Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE), according to Raihan Elahi, the lead energy specialist at the World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme. Speaking at the Africa Energy Indaba in Cape Town, Elahi points out the urgency for a new approach to address current energy access issues around the world.

Elahi highlights the significant gap in progress, stating that, in 2020, 675 million people lack access to electricity, and in 2021, 2.3 billion people still do not have access to clean cooking methods. These challenges are compounded by an increased vulnerability to climate shocks. To triple the rate of electrification in sub-Saharan Africa and achieve universal clean cooking, a transformative strategy is imperative.

Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE), with a primary focus on mini-grids and standalone solar power, is seen as a solution. Elahi emphasizes that DRE could benefit 50% of Africans currently without electricity. Using examples like Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda adopting DRE technologies, he stresses its crucial role in achieving universal energy access. Elahi introduces the World Bank’s initiative, Distributed Access through Renewable Energy Scale-up (DARES).

DARES aims to provide electrification to 300 million people, benefit 1 million farmers, support 1 million micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), establish 100,000 schools and clinics, and construct 10,000 mini-grids, all by 2030. The World Bank’s focus areas for DRE include households, income generation, and social infrastructure. Household energy solutions include lighting, clean cooking, and device charging, contributing to an improved quality of life and facilitating remote work, especially for mothers. Income generation aspects cover energy for agricultural production, food security, MSMEs, jobs, and cold chain and cooling appliances. Social infrastructure involves providing energy for health, education, digital connectivity, and enhanced social services.

The World Bank supports the DRE rollout through five key areas. These include quality assurance, policy, and regulatory support, followed by capacity building and training for DRE entrepreneurs. Targeted subsidies address affordability and availability challenges, acknowledging the distorted energy sector in many countries due to government subsidies. The fourth area involves risk mitigation instruments to facilitate access to commercial debt. Finally, the implementation of a new business model, the energy-as-a-service model, is integral to the World Bank’s comprehensive approach to advancing DRE.

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