Small Island Developing States (SIDS) can transform their power sectors towards renewable energy, addressing the challenges of affordable energy and climate change. In this context, renewable mini-grid solutions, composed of electricity generators and storage systems interconnected to a distribution network which supplies electricity to a localised group of customers, are now cost-effective and viable strategies to expand electricity access in SIDS.

Now, IRENA’s online platform, Project Navigator, provides the tools and guidance to assist in developing renewable mini-grid projects, and introduces the best practices to assist project developers in preparing, developing, and operating bankable projects, particularly in the context of SIDS.

“Renewable mini-grids have been shown to reduce energy costs and environmental impact, increase quality of life and local control over energy used, reduce carbon emissions, and improve energy reliability,” explains Roland Roesch, a Senior Programme Officer in IRENA’s Renewable Energy Markets and Technology Dialogue team.

Addressing project uncertainties and challenges, the IRENA Project Navigator platform supports and guides project developers in the development of renewable mini-grid projects specifically. The new Renewable Mini-grids guidelines describes in nine stages bankability requirements to develop, construct, and operate a renewable mini-grid project.

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Developing a mini-grid project

“Project developers need to set realistic expectations and quantify project goals,” says Simon Benmarraze, an IRENA Analyst working on the Project Navigator. After having conducted an analysis of the context, developers should identify the key project activities with significant potential impacts, and create a framework for assessing any alternatives.

During the screening phase, a developer gathers detailed information on the project, and in the assessment phase carries out a primary decision point by establishing the appropriate mini-grid design.

“Mini-grids are generally a best option for islands, where the conditions mean a grid extension is not always feasible. Each island can bring its own complexity and often requires an entirely different solution, but mini-grids are an optimal solution for SIDS whenever the island’s energy demand is not fulfilled,” explains Benmarraze.

The objective during the selection phase is to rank the project options from the previous phase and to select the best project. In evaluating the project options, developers should base judgements on both quantitative and qualitative metrics. The following pre-development stage determines the mini-grid project’s final configuration and is when the developer establishes the project’s feasibility and develops models for discussions on financing. The development stage covers the design and planning requirements to prepare the financial closing of the mini-grid project — a crucial  stage in which a comprehensive financial model is developed, that includes all costs and warranties for a financial closing with investors and lenders.

IRENA’s guidelines also cover construction, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning. “Mini-grids are made up of distributed, small-scale energy sources and demand-side controls and are fundamentally modular in structure,” Benmarraze explains, “For this reason, mini-grids are not built, operated or decommissioned in a conventional sense — their lifetime is not limited to the lifetime of a single component or subsystem and, if properly implemented, can continue operation virtually indefinitely.”

Supporting island project developers

Over the last three years, IRENA’s Project Navigator has developed an islands module that incorporates several renewable energy project guidelines — utility-scale solar PV, onshore wind, solar home systems, and mini-grids — specifically for SIDS.

Mini-grid on small island“Mini-grids are an optimal solution for SIDS whenever the island’s energy demand is not fulfilled.” — Simon Benmarraze, IRENA

“Project developers need to be able to convince investors and lenders that their project is bankable, and therefore, need to be able to identify typical project risks, and to outline strategies to mitigate them,” Benmarraze says.

Putting best practices into action, IRENA will in 2018 organise with partners, several training workshops for project developers in the Caribbean, Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, South China Sea, and Pacific islands, in applying practical steps for increasing bankability of renewable energy project proposals. These training workshops are designed to help project developers systematically and thoroughly plan projects and avoid pitfalls that jeopardize project success.

Highlighting other costless IRENA platforms, like the Sustainable Energy Marketplace, IRENA’s training workshops will identify 30 island renewable energy projects and support them into preparing bankable renewable energy project proposals — bridging the gap between studies and financing through practical deployment mechanisms.

SIDS project developers can already register their interest for the project development training workshops by sending an email to the IRENA Project Navigator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To find out more about the Renewable Energy Mini-Grids Project Navigator module, register to the IRENA Project Navigator platform.

1,500 kilometres long, Central America’s volcanic arc consists of hundreds of volcanoes — from sky scrapping stratovolcanoes like Guatemala’s 4,202 metre Volcán Tajumulco, to crater lakes like El Salvador’s Ilopango — the very ground of this ocean-separating, continent-connecting, ribbon of land, moves.

The region’s unique geothermal activity is the result of what geologists call subduction: one tectonic plate, the Cocos Plate, moving under others, the Caribbean and North American plates, forcing earth, magma, and heat to the surface. While this does result in life-threatening earthquakes and volcanoes, the geothermal heat released provides a largely untapped energy that the region’s countries are now resolved to harness.

Realising full potential

IRENA Acting Director of Country Support and Partnerships, Gurbuz Gonul, says geothermal energy can help Central America secure and deliver, inexpensive electricity while stimulating low-carbon economic growth.IRENA Acting Director of Country Support and Partnerships, Gurbuz Gonul, says geothermal energy can help Central America secure and deliver, inexpensive electricity while stimulating low-carbon economic growth.

“Central America holds some of the world’s most promising geothermal resources, that if utilised can help the region secure and deliver, inexpensive electricity while stimulating low-carbon economic growth,” said Gurbuz Gonul, Acting Director of Country, Support and Partnerships at IRENA, on the occasion of the first Regional Geothermal Workshop in Central America last month.

Taking place in El Salvador, and organised by IRENA and LaGeo (El Salvador’s state-owned geothermal electricity producer), and in association with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeitis (GIZ), this workshop of regional governments sought to identify the measures that may unlock their vast geothermal potential.

“Through the sharing of knowledge, experience and lessons learned from the leading geothermal countries in Central America, this workshop will help establish the building blocks for the stable, long-term policy framework needed to overcome barriers in geothermal development,” added Gonul.

If El Salvador and other Central American countries were to realise their full geothermal energy potential, they would be able to double their current generation of renewable electricity by 2020, says IRENA Senior Adviser Vanessa Interiano.

Vanessa Interiano IRENA speaks smallIRENA Senior Adviser, Vanessa Interiano, speaks about geothermal energy potential in El Salvador

“Ambitious national commitments, international agreements and rapid technological progress have prompted countries to increasingly turn to renewable energy to expand their power infrastructure,” says Interiano, “But the variability of solar and wind energy presents challenges for grid integration and stability. Countries in Central America are now rightly recognising geothermal energy as a sustainable alternative to variable renewables.”

IRENA estimates that globally geothermal potential ranges in the region of 200 gigawatts (GW). But at the end of 2016 global geothermal power capacity totalled at just 12.7 GW — only 0.3% of global electricity generation.

In Central America geothermal power generation has increased nearly five-fold since 1990, most notably in El Salvador, the country with the second largest geothermal generation share after Iceland, and in Costa Rica.

“El Salvador generates a quarter of its total electricity from geothermal sources and it still has more geothermal potential to exploit,” says Interiano. It has been estimated that El Salvador still has over 600 megawatts of untapped geothermal resources, that if utilised could expand and enhance the clean energy share of the country’s energy matrix.

International Geothermal Association Association President, Alexander Richter, spoke at IRENA's first Regional Geothermal Workshop in Central America.International Geothermal Association Association President, Alexander Richter, spoke at IRENA’s first Regional Geothermal Workshop in Central America.

“There are not many countries in the world where geothermal plays such an elementary part of a country’s electricity supply like El Salvador. With plans to push the overall share to 40% with additional geothermal projects, El Salvador is taking a remarkable leadership role beyond Central America,” says Alexander Richter, President of the International Geothermal Association.

IRENA calculates that geothermal power could satisfy nearly double the region’s predicted electricity demand through 2020, but geothermal expansion in the region is hampered by several barriers, including a lack of adequate policies and regulations for the use and development of geothermal resources.

To address this, IRENA has launched a regional capacity building programme in Central America under the Global Geothermal Alliance — a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at accelerating geothermal energy deployment and development. The capacity building programme supports the development of capabilities of various stakeholders along the geothermal value chain in Central American countries.

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Shell has been a pioneer in developing scenarios to explore the future and deepen its strategic thinking for nearly 50 years. In the 1990s, the company started sharing scenarios externally to contribute to the public dialogue on the collective challenges and choices faced by business, government and society. Over the years I have written many posts that incorporated thinking from Shell Scenarios, with the 2016 publication ‘A Better Life With A Healthy Planet: Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions’ featuring in numerous recent articles. Now, for those interested in the formulation of the Shell scenarios, a behind the scenes look is available through two new publications and an on-line database.

Underpinning the scenario stories is robust modelling and my colleagues in the Shell Scenarios team have now published details of the methodology, explaining how scenarios are quantified, how energy pathways are modeled and how much energy resource could realistically be available. The new materials help to bring further transparency and understanding in the analysis.

Scenarios

The World Energy Model is a core tool in exploring the evolution of energy demand in different countries and in different sectors, helping the scenario developers to maintain system consistency, under varying assumptions in policy, economy, technology and consumer choices. Shell’s World Energy Model is designed to put numbers to long-term scenario stories of the transformation of the energy system, at a detailed country level in a consistent and holistic framework. It can model energy demand “top down” based on consumers’ energy service needs. The model also uniquely charts energy choices of consumers and producers; and covers other key elements like efficiency and prices, and outcomes such as emissions. There are 75 different specific scenario-based inputs spanning six key drivers including population, economic growth, environmental pressures, technology, resources available and people’s choices. It has a large repository of historical data from 1960 on both energy demand and the drivers. It runs in yearly time-steps, as far as 2100 if required.

WEM Structure 2

WEM Structure

Together with Shell’s Global Supply Model, it is possible to coherently examine the impacts in one part of the world made by changes in another. This latter model is a top-down model which allows the company to form its own view of long-term oil and gas production potential. The data is collated from a range of external data providers combined with Shell internal sources and analyses to build a Shell view of future production potential. This also allows analysis of key uncertainties and enables rapid quantification of different production scenarios for strategic studies and for the wider analysis of the global energy system.

GSM

The Global Energy Resources (GER) database provides a comprehensive overview of all available primary and renewable energy resources per country. You can access data in the GER and read more about the Shell Energy Models by visiting www.shell.com/scenariosenergymodels.

Scenarios are part of and ongoing process used in Shell for more than 40 years to challenge executives’ perspectives on the future business environment. They are based on plausible assumptions and quantification and are designed to stretch management thinking and even to consider events that may only be remotely possible.

You know Enphase is committed to providing innovative solar technology with industry-leading equipment, monitoring software, and unmatched reliability. When your system is working perfectly, you may not know it's because we're working behind the scenes to make sure your system is always optimized, and always adjusting to the latest regulations and grid changes.


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Partnering with Utility Companies

The power grid has always been a tricky thing: utility companies have to juggle their enormous power plants, their network of power distribution facilities, and do it all while staying on top of all regulations.

Since solar really arrived on the scene, it's of course been a huge benefit to energy production, sustainability, and people's pocketbooks — but utility companies have struggled to stay on top of all the different power generation facilities, because each home with solar power is a generation facility. Couple all those facilities with a dark, cloudy day, and it gets really hard to monitor and manage the entire grid as effectively and efficiently as possible.

That's why Enphase built smart monitoring devices and software that's always up to date with the latest regulatory changes and performance challenges, while also meeting utility company requirements. We work with your local utility company to set up these processes, and keep in constant contact with them, so that even when they face a new challenge or performance issue, you'll continue to enjoy reliable service.


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Remote Updates

With this equipment and process in place, Enphase can make remote modifications to our microinverters when a local utility company contacts us and requests optimization. And because we're constantly monitoring the devices, we're able to identify areas to improve performance — like making firmware updates to ensure your microinverters are performing just right.

Whether we're responding to a utility company's request or to our own internal monitoring, all updates are pushed to the software system remotely — no sending out a squad of technicians, no problem.


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Prepared for the Future

You might ask: why does this matter to me? At Enphase, we know your solar system is a long-term investment. And we know the utility grid will keep on changing. It'll look different and function differently. We're here to make sure your investment can navigate those changes and operate the right way now and in the future. Remote updates are just one of those things we're doing — whether you notice it or not.


Help in Hawaii:

Take a deeper look at our remote control efforts in Hawaii. Read the article

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