Industry networking, catalytic grants and thought-provoking illustrations — Contributing to the development of the global off-grid solar market
Power Africa at the 2020 Global Off-grid Solar Forum and Expo in Nairobi
By Carla Visser, Power Africa Off-grid Project
The 2020 Global Off-grid Solar Forum and Expo, held February 18–20 in Nairobi, brought together around 1,300 participants from 75 countries. More than 85 companies showcased off-grid solar products and services.
During the three-day expo, the Power Africa stand saw hundreds of visitors and the team had the opportunity to network with off-grid solar companies, government representatives, last-mile product distributors, financiers and investors. All of these stakeholder groups play a critical role in the off-grid solar ecosystem, a market that barely existed ten years ago and is now valued at $1.75 billion.
Accelerating the development of the global off-grid solar market with new grants
The event was hosted by GOGLA* and The World Bank Group’s Lighting Global Program with the aim to accelerate the development of the global off-grid solar market to contribute towards achieving universal energy access.
“Since the start of the Beyond the Grid initiative in 2014, we [Power Africa] have been a big supporter of GOGLA, both as a cheerleader and a financial contributor,” said David Stonehill, the Lead for Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid Initiative, in his address at the event’s industry reception. “Thanks to the collective efforts of everyone here today, we have achieved nearly half of our goal . . . with 15 million new electricity connections”.
During the event, Power Africa announced awardees for three new grant windows. The grants will:
- Help solar home system companies expand electricity access to underserved geographic markets in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Sierra Leone (awarded to American Engineering Group Congo, BBOXX DRC, Ignite Power, and upOwa) / De nouvelles subventions USAID/Power Africa élargissent l’accès à l’électricité en Afrique occidentale et centrale
- Enable companies to test and scale promising solutions for the coordinated delivery of SHS and liquefied petroleum gas cooking solutions to off-grid households and businesses in Cameroon and Kenya (awarded to BBOXX Kenya, LivelyHoods, and Solkamtech) / L’USAID/Power Africa annonce l’octroi de 550 000 dollars de subventions à des entreprises pour proposer des solutions groupées d’électricité hors réseau et de combustibles de cuisson modernes
- Support companies and recycling centers to test approaches to reduce solar e-waste in the off-grid solar sector in sub-Saharan Africa (awarded to Solaris OffGrid, M-KOPA Labs, Lagazel, and Aceleron)
The main objective of these grants is “to obtain a strong track-record of what works and what is economically feasible, to inform scaling of sustainable solutions”, said Stonehill.
Exploring and visualizing the future of the off-grid energy
On the third day of the forum, Power Africa hosted a foresight session highlighting four possible scenarios for the future of the off-grid energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa.
The scenarios, developed by a team of Power Africa and Institute for the Future researchers, technologists, and social scientists, included off-grid energy and digital finance, micro-mobility, gender equity, and extreme weather. To engage the audience and help synthesize key messages, artist James Durno was present to create real-time illustrations to visualize the future scenarios.
Scenario 1: Digital Finance
The digital finance scenario considers the potential impact of advances in digital connectivity, mobile phone technology, and fintech innovations on the off-grid energy landscape and the new possibilities digital networks and off-grid solar solutions can bring.
Scenario 2: Micro-mobility
Related to off-grid energy and micro-mobility, the scenario focuses on electric vehicle technology, energy storage, and possible transit infrastructures of the future such as battery powered public transport that is charged by solar-powered battery kiosks.
Scenario 3: Gender Equity
With “women driving the off-grid solar industry”, the gender equity scenario highlights female empowerment, gender smart investing, and women-led community initiatives in the off-grid energy sector.
Scenario 4: Extreme Weather
The fourth scenario, off-grid energy and extreme weather, reflects on adaptation in an era of environmental unpredictability and touches on the potential for off-grid energy innovations to support climate resilient agriculture and humanitarian relief efforts.
A report with detailed foresight scenarios for off-grid energy in sub-Saharan Africa will be published later in the year.
“Events like the Global Off-grid Solar Forum and Expo provide the sector with a platform for knowledge exchange and dialogue to foster a shared understanding of the actions required to accelerate universal energy access through off-grid innovation. We are excited to contribute to advancements in the off-grid energy space and look forward to future opportunities like this event to interact with energy innovators and stakeholders,” concluded Stonehill.
*GOGLA is the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry representing over 180 members as a neutral, independent, not-for-profit association.