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IRENA highlights prospects for rural development based on renewable energy


Renewable energy technologies are capable of providing sustainable, modern energy services to rural areas currently without access; this is the theme of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) latest conference in Africa.

IRENA’s Deputy Director-General, Frank Wouters, opened the first International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC) earlier this morning. The two day conference is hosted by IRENA in partnership with ECREEE (the Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for West African States) and ARE, (the Alliance for Rural Electrification) and is being held in Accra, Ghana on 1-2 November.

“60% of Africa’s population lives in rural areas, without access to modern energy services. Extending the grid to these less densely populated areas is not cost-effective and as a result it is not a reality for many areas’, said Mr Wouters.

“This is where renewable energy solutions come in: the decentralised options provided by renewables such as solar home systems or mini-grids, can provide rapid access to either basic levels of electrification, or in some cases grid-quality electricity access. Thanks to the maturing of technologies and markets, these solutions are now advanced and have become the most accessible and often the cheapest, option.”

The day before opening IOREC, Mr Wouters addressed a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), ECREEE, the Global Forum for Sustainable Energy (GFSE), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) which was also being held in Accra, Ghana.

He urged West African states to continue to create enabling policy framework for renewable energy, in order to bring modern energy services to all their citizens.

“Due to rapid technological advancements and increasing economies of scale, solar and wind energy are, in many cases, becoming cheaper than other options, offering tremendous opportunities,” Mr Wouters said. “By adopting policies to encourage investment in renewable energy, West African governments can also stimulate business and ensure continued economic growth. An important part of this is a thorough review and in many cases an overhaul of the national electricity sector."