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The off-grid revolution will be televised

Off-grid power is essentially electricity generation that is not connected to a national grid and is independent of power stations or other ways of generating electricity, such as wind or solar. Your little solar charger for your smartphone, if you have one, is a form of off-grid power. It's not just for middle-class people with dreads, living in teepees.

Off-grid electricity production has the potential to bring power to billions of people throughout the world. It’s estimated that over 5000 mini-grids have been installed so far globally, bringing electricity access to over 111 million households, according to a report by the mini-grid partnership.

Not only do these systems bring power to rural and often poor communities in developing countries, due to improvements and efficiencies in production and manufacturing in solar panels and battery tech, the cost of which has continued to fall sharply by 86% and 85% respectively between 2010 and 2018, but off-grid installations are also quickly becoming more cost-effective than creating a physical linked infrastructure to a national energy grid.

The report identified 7,181 mini-grid projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and small island nations with some in Latin America, as of March 2020. As many as 5,544 mini-grids were operational, of which 63% were solar or solar hybrid systems. Information on these projects is stored in the open-source mini-grid project database, accompanying the report. The mini-grids already installed today represent only a small fraction of the total needed for full rural electrification.

Whilst this progress is amazing and the benefits it’s bringing to many millions of people is fantastic, it’s not all good news. There are a number of barriers to a more widespread rollout of these off-grid systems. Of the $2.1 Billion dollars approved by the mini-grid funders group, only 13% of this has been used. Given the pressures that many developing nations face, particularly as they struggle to deal with the continued effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s vital that government bodies, the third sector, and private initiatives step up and help the growing mini-grid sector realise its full potential.

Read all about it here.

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