14 August 2018
IRENA Highlights Off-grid Renewable Energy’s Impact on SDG 7
Solar Farm, US. Credit: American Public Power Association
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IRENA published a brief on off-grid renewable energy solutions that highlights global and regional trends, noting the rates of expansion and increases in people reached by off-grid energy.

IRENA describes key enabling factors, including policies and regulations, institutional frameworks, technology, capacity building, delivery and financing models.

14 July 2018: A brief launched by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) during the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) discusses global and regional trends in the renewable energy sector. IRENA finds that the number of people served by off-grid renewables has increased six-fold since 2011.

Titled, ‘Off-grid Energy Solutions: Global and Regional Status and Trends,’ the brief examines continents’ performance on renewables in pursuit of SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy). In Africa, the coupling of mobile payment platforms with technology design, particularly around solar lights and home systems, has facilitated rapid expansion on the continent. The brief notes that the African population served by off-grid solutions expanded from 2 million people in 2011 to 53 million in 2016.

Linking to SDG 2 (zero hunger), the brief notes that pay as you go (PAYG) solutions in Africa have eased affordability in rural areas, and can help electrify rural sectors such as agriculture. IRENA also offers examples of biogas production for cooking in Viet Nam, and off-grid solar for agriculture in India. These manifest in the form of clean cookstoves and solar-powered irrigation pumps.

Solar PV and bioenergy capture the vast majority of off-grid electricity use.

In Asia, IRENA highlights the rapid capacity increases and scale of adoption of renewable energy, noting that total capacity reached almost 4.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2017, more than tripling the region’s 1.3 GW capacity in 2008. While much of the increase derives from the spread of bioenergy, the brief recognizes that over 30% of Asia’s 2017 capacity was from solar. It further notes the expansion of people served, which increased eight-fold between 2008 and 2016, to over 76 million.

In South America, the brief outlines the importance of off-grid renewable energy as a last-mile electricity solution, especially in remote villages that are home to dispersed populations with low purchasing power.

Breaking down off-grid electricity’s end uses, the brief shows major sources of renewable energy (hydropower, solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, bioenergy and geothermal), noting the end-use sectors that they respectively support. A table within the brief shows that solar PV and bioenergy capture the vast majority, each comprising over 40% of off-grid renewable energy use.

Going beyond the numbers, the brief examines the enabling environment needed to scale up off-grid renewable energy deployment. Key factors include policies and regulations, institutional frameworks, technology, capacity building, delivery and financing models and cross-sector linkages. Across these, common themes include local ownership, collaboration between public and private sectors, and adequate standards and quality control measures to support and facilitate projects. [Off-grid Renewable Energy Solutions] [Publication Landing Page] [IRENA Press Release]

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