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Solar Mini Grids To Power Half a Billion People in Africa by 2030

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A recent study by the World Bank says solar mini-grids are the ‘core solution’ for closing the energy access gap in Africa by 2030. According to the international financial institution, solar mini-grids can provide reliable and affordable electricity to nearly half a billion people in underserved communities on the continent.

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The study, titled, ‘Mini Grids for Half a Billion people: Market Outlook and Handbook for Decision Makers’ is produced by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). It identifies the market drivers that enable the mini-grid sector over the world to achieve full market potential and universal electrification.

To date, 48 million people around the world have been connected to electricity via 21,000 mini-grids. At the current pace of solar mini-grid deployment, just 44,800 new mini-grids will be built at an investment of $37 million and this will only serve 80 million people by the end of this decade.

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World Bank estimates over 217,000 solar mini-grids are needed to be developed for powering 490 million people by 2030, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The mini-grids would eventually help in avoiding 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This will require a total investment of $127 billion in the green mini-grid sector.

Riccardo Puliti, Infrastructure Vice President at the World Bank, said, “The World Bank has been scaling up its support to mini-grids as part of helping countries develop comprehensive electrification programs. With $1.4 billion across 30 countries, our commitments to mini-grids represent about one-quarter of total investment in mini-grids by the public and private sector in our client countries.”

As per ESMAP, there are currently 28,000 green mini-grid projects planned in Africa and South Asia, which includes 99% of solar photovoltaic installations. The pace of mini-grid deployment should be increased from the current 150 grids to 2,000 grids per country per year, focusing on building portfolios of modern mini-grids rather than isolated developments.

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To realize the full potential of these mini-grids, the World Bank says that the governments and private sector must work together to systematically identify mini-grid opportunities and establish its business environment through adapted regulation, and supportive policies, along with overcoming the hurdles to project financing.

Also, the cost of electricity generated from the solar mini-grids has dropped from $0.55 per kWh to 0.38 per kWh, over the last four years. The price should be further reduced to $0.20 per kWh by 2030 to provide affordable electricity for all.

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