Distributed Renewable Energy: Powering the Future



Power for All is a global campaign that promotes distributed of renewable energy as the key to achieving universal energy access. Why distributed renewable energy? It is fast to deploy, it is affordable, and it is easily and readily available in the market. Power for All is a global campaign that promotes distributed of renewable energy as the key to achieving universal energy access. Why distributed renewable energy? It is fast to deploy, it is affordable, and it is easily and readily available in the market. Distributed technologies—such as solar lanterns and home systems, mini grids and micro hydro–are solutions that communities living in energy poverty can access quickly and are able to afford. The campaign was formed in 2015 by a group of leading energy access enterprises and civil society organizations working to increase energy access via sustainable distributed renewable energy markets. Today it has 120 partners and in addition to its global advocacy and awareness work, the campaign has launched specific activities in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

The Energy Access Challenge

Globally 1.1 billion people live without energy access–a staggering figure considering the importance of energy for development and its impact on health, education, employment, enterprise, agriculture and far more. Yet, even with the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative—as well as national targets for universal energy access by 2030 or earlier in many countries—the challenge is still vast and progress is far too slow.

In Zimbabwe, a country of 15 million people, only 40% are connected to the national grid, leaving 60% of people— around 9 million–living in energy poverty. As well as impacting welfare, energy poverty across the country is limiting businesses and economic growth.

Centralized grid energy alone is simply unable to address the country’s current and growing energy needs. This means that instead of clean, safe power, millions of Zimbabweans are forced to spend their much needed finances on expensive, dangerous and polluting forms of power such as kerosene and diesel. Families in rural areas spend an average of 10-15% of their weekly income on lighting alone. Money that could be spent on food, education or for their farms and enterprises.


sidebar_powerforaallThe Decentralized Renewable Solution

Renewable sources of energy, including wind, solar, hydro and biomass can be used to power technologies ranging from solar portable lights, to solar home systems, mini grids, irrigation systems and farm machinery.
These technologies can be accessed and purchased in a matter of days and weeks, rather than the many years it takes for new power plants to be built and for grid lines to reach rural communities—if they do at all.
To speed up access to these technologies, Power for All focusses on three main areas of work as follows;

( i ) Awareness and Behaviour Change (ABC)
Through our ABC work we aim to change the perception of distributed renewable energy. For example, some perceive distributed renewable energy as something that does not work reliably, or is not real energy—rather it is a ‘toy’. We have been engaging with many different organizations and groups – from the government to the financial sector, local communities to the media, to highlight the real potential of these technologies. For example, solar irrigation is increasing crop yields by 300%, micro-hydro plants are powering businesses, health centers and schools and—globally–the solar lighting and home system sector has already helped low-income families to save a combined total of $3.5 billion. We gather the facts and case studies that show not only that distributed renewable technology works, but that it is improving the health, safety and opportunity of families in Zimbabwe and around the world.

(ii) Global Advocacy
In order to speed up access to clean energy we are working to influence policy makers, financial institutions, multi-lateral banks (MDBs) and other key organizations to support the sector and invest more in
distributed renewable energy. For example, we have developed a point of view paper called ‘Decentralized Renewable Energy: The Fast Track to Universal Energy Access’ which highlights how only around 2% of energy finance from MDBs, such as the World Bank and Africa Development Bank, is used to support decentralized renewables and energy access. As well as providing practical recommendations to help MDBs to change this record, the report highlights the opportunity cost of not investing in this sector.

(iii) Market Activation
Power for All is working in four African countries–Rwanda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe—and has launched national campaigns in three of these in the past six months. Why these countries? The countries were chosen are they are at different levels of market development and the campaign is exploring the different types of activities that will help to support market growth in different country contexts. Although every country’s situation is unique, the ambition is to develop a ‘tool-kit’ of resources and approaches that can be used in a variety of different contexts around the world to speed up energy access.

In Zimbabwe the campaign is working on four key areas:
1. Coordination and Collaboration: We work with Power for All partners to drive multi-stakeholder engagement and activities between Government, civil society organizations, private sector, donor community and investors to accelerate access to decentralized renewables. For example, by hosting sector workshops and knowledge sharing on VAT, tariffs, importation processes, finance mechanisms and enabling policy, and by encouraging collaborative activities between social enterprises, civil society and community groups

2. Support the Government: We enable knowledge sharing on the policies and regulatory framework that will most rapidly accelerate energy access via market- based decentralized renewable solutions, and support their integration into energy policy and planning. For example, we invited the Secretary of Trade from the Kenyan Embassy to share knowledge
with local decision-makers on the policy, regulations and financial incentives that led to the rapid growth of the off-grid solar market in Kenya. (20% of Kenyans are estimated to have access to distributed solar technologies.)

3. Support the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe (REAZ): we are working with REAZ to strengthen the private sector voice within the local energy sector, and to create the environment for a strong, sustainable decentralized renewables market. For example, we have helped to facilitate and advise REAZ on the development of policy positions and strategy, and have linked the organization with international associations, and other existing associations in Zimbabwe to aide peer-to-peer learning. Recently, we have also supported their countrywide outreach as they seek to invite more enterprises working on energy access to join the association.

4. Raise Awareness: we communicate the power of decentralized solar technologies, and sector developments to the public through educational programs and the media, in order to profile how the technology works, and the benefits it brings to lives and livelihoods. For example, we have recently held media training to help local news outlets to learn more about distributed renewables and to enable them to ask key questions. Recently, the campaign also joined with civil society and private sector partners to hold a Solar Fair in Goromonzi District to enable local communities to see solar technologies in action. By supporting the people of Zimbabwe to build their own energy future, we have the strongest opportunity to achieve Power for All by 2030 or before.

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