The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) has showcased the incredible importance of bringing light to the hundreds of millions around the world living off grid. It has also seen unprecedented momentum in support of off-grid renewable energy in making that vision possible.
As we near the end of IYL 2015, the off-grid sector stands at a point at which it not only has the power to deliver lighting (the first rung of the “energy ladder”), but to deliver a whole new way of life for the 1.1 billion people without access to electricity. Explosive growth in the off-grid lighting market has given way to a new age of maturity, while roof-top solar, mini-grids, micro-hydro and stand alone renewable technology for productive purposes – mills, water pumps and refrigerators – are all starting to demonstrate their huge potential.
This will be critical not only for bringing light to millions of families, but for powering their lives and vital services, such as energy for mobile phones, energy to run schools and energy to operate health centres. And while the social benefits are extraordinary, the opportunity for businesses are even greater. Small to medium sized enterprises account for most of the job creation in Sub-saharan Africa and unelectrified areas of Asia, yet face severe problems with the high cost and unreliability of electricity. Much of this energy deficit can be filled by off grid renewables. Meanwhile, the sector itself will create millions of jobs and opportunities. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that 4.5 million jobs will be created in the off-grid renewables-based electricity sector by 2030. An expectation already being borne out in Bangladesh where the government’s focus on solar home systems has catalysed 114,000 jobs in solar panel assembly. What’s more, decentralised renewables have kick started a 4.7 billion dollar market in off-grid appliances, such as energy efficient TVs, fans and computers, that will drive even greater innovation, enterprise and opportunity.
The Power for All campaign brings together businesses and civil society organisations focused on off-grid solutions – including solar, mini-grid, micro-hydro, biomass and small-scale wind – to showcase how we can reach unelectrified communities faster, cleaner and more affordably with distributed renewables. Off-grid solutions have the power to light up almost 100 million homes by 2020 and to achieve universal energy access by 2025, at a tenth of the cost of other solutions. We know how and we know we can, but with hundreds of millions living without basic services, we ask that everyone – governments, investors, businesses, NGOs, energy consumers and more – get behind this incredible momentum.
It will take a united ambition to truly achieve Power for All.
To stay informed and get involved with Power for All, please go to: www.powerforall.org/join-us
Susie Wheeldon is the Senior Manager of Communications at Power for All. Power for All is a global campaign to propel the deployment of decentralized renewable energy (DRE) to achieve universal energy access by 2025.