The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in partnership with the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) organised the first global conference on off-grid renewable energy in Accra, Ghana, on 1-2 November.
Off-grid solutions – or local generating systems separate from the national electrical grid – promise to bring electricity to millions of people in energy-poor areas, including rural areas in developing countries, and offer a tremendous opportunity for new investments based on renewable technologies. The International Off-Grid Energy Conference (IOREC) brought together stakeholders from across the rural electrification value chain, with a promoting dialogue between the public and private sectors, particularly in Africa.
The conference attracted over 350 delegates from 80 countries, including representatives from rural electrification agencies and ministries in charge of renewable energy development from around 30 African countries. Speakers from 23 countries, from the public and private sectors, highlighted successes in off-grid rural electrification through renewables worldwide. Discussions covered policies, regulations, financing and technologies conducive to the scaling up of off-grid renewable energy-based rural electrification, in particular through private sector projects.
IOREC highlighted the potential for off-grid renewables to fill the demand-supply gap with distributed generation to supplement grid supply; the importance of growth strategies based on pragmatic targets addressing local conditions; and the critical role of enabling regulatory frameworks, or “ecosystems” to scale up rural electrification. Market distortions, for example due to kerosene subsidies, as well as unrealistic promises of grid extension, continue to hinder off-grid renewables.
Even so, several innovative business models have succeeded. Local banks can play a significant role by providing credit to households and businesses for cleaner energy solutions. Governments need to raise awareness about relative life-cycle costs, which make off-grid renewable technologies a good choice for productive uses, not only for lighting.
Further details of IOREC and its key outcomes can be downloaded here.
The conference agenda and presentations are available on the conference website (www.iorec.org).