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MINISTERS GATHER TO DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT WITH OFF-GRID RENEWABLES

09/02/2017 Over a billion people in rural and peri-urban areas live without electricity, and another 2.9 billion rely on traditional fuels (like firewood) for cooking and heating. The Sustainable Development Goals recognise that bringing affordable electricity access to these people will enable increased productivity, higher incomes, improved food and water security, enhanced access to healthcare and education, and a host of other benefits towards developing communities and raising people out of poverty. But what’s the best way to sustainably bring electricity access to people and gain this myriad of benefits in a timely manner? Off-grid renewables offer one approach that fulfils these needs and is both economical and good for the environment. How off-grid renewables can be best integrated into national electrification strategies and maximise socioeconomic benefits, was the focus of discussion at IRENA’s 7th Assembly’s Ministerial Roundtable, Catalysing off-grid renewable energy deployment – Towards universal electricity access and the attainment of SDGs, held on 15 January 2017 in Abu Dhabi. “Renewable energy provides a unique opportunity to reconcile multiple sustainable development objectives while offering a viable solution for catalysing socio-economic development,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General, at the opening of the discussion. “Off-grid solutions can empower rural communities to catalyse local economies, increase incomes, escape the poverty trap, and contribute to the development of resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure.” Convening thought leaders in the sector The Ministerial Roundtable discussion was complemented by insights from a high-level panel constituting key international (e.g. African Development Bank, Sustainable Energy for All) and private sector (e.g. Mobisol, SELCO, Azuri Technologies) actors. The dynamism of the discussion was remarkable and it was clear that the question is not why but how — how to deploy off-grid solutions faster and at scale. Several governments recognized the substantial socio-economic benefits on offer and the advantages offered by off-grid solutions in terms of scale, pace and livelihood-impact, and demonstrated the will, targets, and plans to support off-grid renewable energy deployment. Speakers said that to accelerate the pace of off-grid renewable energy deployment, planners need to rethink solutions and approaches for electrification, and develop integrated planning processes that consider the viability of grid-based and off-grid solutions — this will promote that adequate electricity access be delivered sustainably and timely. They emphasised that governments need to look at access from a ‘delivery of services’ perspective and not the number of Mega-watts alone, and that focusing on education, health and productive end-uses will enable customisation of energy solutions and maximise socio-economic impacts. These outcomes from the Ministerial Roundtable echoed those from last September’s the 3rd International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC). Creating an ecosystem to accelerate deployment “Ensuring access to modern energy is critical for achieving sustainable development goals,” said Tone Skogen, Norway’s State Secretary and moderator of the Roundtable. Efforts are needed to accelerate the pace of off-grid renewable energy deployment, and this requires an enabling environment hinged on tailored policy and regulations, customised financing and business models, capacity building, and innovative technology solutions. As touched upon in the previous day’s Legislator’s Forum, policies and regulations play a central role in promoting off-grid renewable energy development. At IOREC 2016, IRENA released a major report focusing on policy and regulatory design for mini-grid development, along with a report focusing on ongoing and future technology innovations in renewable mini-grids.. The discussion during the Ministerial Roundtable highlighted that besides the generation technology, innovation on the appliance side, including those for productive uses (e.g. welding machines, agro-processing equipment) and public services (e.g. healthcare equipment), have the potential to transform the lives of millions with new economic possibilities and social inclusion. As an example, IRENA’s earlier work demonstrated the wide range of benefits that could be realized from deploying decentralised renewable energy solutions in the agri-food chain. Access to affordable and long-term financing for end-users and entrepreneurs was highlighted as key for catalyzing growth in the off-grid renewable sector. In particular, the importance of unlocking asset-based financing for rural consumers and levering on microcredit delivery was emphasised to be important. The importance of innovative financing tools, including provision of guarantees for de-risking private sector investments and local currency loans, was also highlighted. The development of technical capacity unanimously came across as key for ensuring that technology solutions are adapted to local conditions. These capacities need to be developed across the value chain, including among regulators, financing institutions and communities. Building partnerships towards a common objective The Ministerial Roundtable concluded with an emphasis on the importance of partnerships and collaboration. In achieving the objective of universal access to electricity, partnerships and international cooperation, as well as peer-to-peer learning will be key to maximise efficiency and impact of efforts and resources. The outcomes of the Ministerial Roundtable were reported back to the Assembly, and will further feed into IRENA’s future work on policy and regulatory analysis, entrepreneurship promotion, data and information gathering, tools development and country-level support. To learn more about off-grid renewables, check out IRENA’s recently released key findings and recommendations from its International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference. CC: https://irenanewsroom.org/2017/02/09/ministers-gather-to-discuss-development-with-off-grid-renewables/

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Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria – launched

25 NOVEMBER 2016 At a recently ended power forum, industry leaders witnessed the launch of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, which will aid the country’s 2030 energy mix. On Thursday, the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) was launched at the annual West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC), its goal being to see renewable energy including solar, hydro, biomass and wind contributing 40% of the national energy mix by 2030. REAN is an umbrella association for organisations working across the renewable energy spectrum within the country, including renewable energy enterprises, project developers and promoters. The association is set to provide a strong private sector voice to call for policies and regulation, which catalyse the growth of the renewable energy market, and increase finance to the sector. REAN President, Segun Adaju, commented: “At this critical time for energy and climate [change] we are delighted [that] so many renewable energy enterprises are coming together to support the launch of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria. “It is vital for the sector to have a united voice with which to call for supportive policy, financing and regulation.” Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria to enable clean power Adaju added: “We hope that many more organisations will join the association in the coming days and weeks, and join our efforts to ensure that all Nigerians can access clean, safe power.” According to the association, 96 million people in Nigeria lack access to energy, by far the largest number of any country in Africa. Although Nigeria’s grid capacity is over 12,000MW, only 4,500MW is available due to a chronic lack of investment. Decentralised and renewable energy solutions provide a fast and affordable way to increase power generation and energy access, REAN highlighted. Greater support for renewable solutions is also critical for meeting the country’s ambitious climate goals, set out this month at COP22. REAN’s members manufacture, install, maintain, sell and finance an array of renewable energy solutions, from rapidly deployable decentralised technologies including household solar, renewable mini-grids and off-grid irrigation systems to larger grid connected solutions. The growth of REAN has been supported by its founding members, as well as national and international organisations including the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria, Heinrich Boll Foundation, the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association and Power for All. cc: https://www.esi-africa.com/news/renewable-energy-association-nigeria-launched/

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US Solar Industry Employment Climbs 25 Percent

February 7, 2017 By Chris Martin, Bloomberg U.S. solar-industry employment in 2016 grew at the fastest pace in at least seven years, with growth in all sectors including manufacturing, sales and installations, as demand for clean power swelled. One out of every 50 new American jobs last year was in the solar industry, which now employs more than 260,000 workers, according to an annual report Tuesday from The Solar Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit. That’s up 25 percent from 2015, and the biggest gain since the group first compiled the data in 2010. Companies including SunPower Corp., Sunrun Inc. and Canadian Solar Inc. are all hiring as they gear up for an expected 29 percent increase in installed capacity this year. U.S. solar installation continues to climb as costs fall, making panels more cost-competitive with fossil fuels. That’s expected to continue despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to boost the coal industry, and will make clean energy a reliable source of employment, said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation. “These are well-paying, family sustaining jobs with low barriers to entry,” Luecke said in an interview. Still, installation growth in the U.S. is slowing. Some utilities are scaling back after meeting state mandates, and consumer rooftop demand has been threatened by changes in local policies. Total photovoltaic installations this year are expected to be 10.8 GW, after surging 72 percent to 12.4 GW in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The number of solar jobs will increase by 10 percent in 2017, Luecke said. The median wage for a solar installation job was $26 an hour last year, according to the report. The jobs census defines solar workers as those who spend at least half their time on solar-related work. cc: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2017/02/us-solar-industry-employment-climbs-25-percent.html ©2017 Bloomberg News

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A New Kind of Solar Panel That’s Smart, Stores Energy, and Even Talks

A fog machine goes off, and an astronaut emerges from behind the assembled crowd, carrying the device that the room has been waiting to see up onto the stage. The atmosphere could be mistaken for the unveiling of the latest virtual reality headset or a new Silicon Valley-backed fitness tracker. But the four-year-old startup called SunCulture Solar, led by entrepreneur and inventor Christopher Estes, has developed something much more unusual and the company unveiled it for the first time on Wednesday night in the penthouse at The Battery club in downtown San Francisco. Estes has redesigned the solar panel, integrating batteries into the panel itself, overlaying it with smart sensors and software and wirelessly linking it to a computing hub and cell phone app. The company's panels, called SolPads, are supposed to be sold late next year in a system for a rooftop, or as a stand alone panel that can be propped up on a back deck or balcony. Partly by integrating the batteries inside the panels, SunCulture Solar says it can sell a home rooftop solar system for half of the cost of currently available solar panel and battery system combos. Estes, who created the company with his wife Amy Becker Estes, described his new solar panel in an interview with Fortune earlier this month as "the smartest on the planet." He hopes that rethinking the panel "will do for the solar industry what smart phones did for the computer industry." It's a tall order. Few solar panel makers are really thinking differently about the aesthetics of panels, or are integrating computing intelligence and user experience design into the panel itself (SolPads can respond to finger taps and can even talk). No solar companies are integrating batteries inside panels. Instead most are thinking about cost. With the dramatic growth in sales of solar panels over the past few years, solar panels are now at their cheapest time in history. In some large solar farms, built to sell power to utilities, energy from solar panels can fetch prices as low as four cents per kilowatt hour; cheaper than natural gas and coal power. But as low cost panels get cheaper and cheaper, and as the technology becomes more mainstream, a few companies are trying to differentiate solar panels by making them higher-end, more efficient, and more tied to batteries. In particular billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, and his cousin Lyndon Rive, are now focused on launching new types of solar products at SolarCity (SCTY, -0.29%), as the company undergoes an acquisition by electric car maker Tesla (TSLA, +1.00%). During a recent SolarCity earnings call, Musk said that SolarCity wants his company's solar panels to be "beautiful," to eventually all be paired with batteries, and to be so visually compelling as to make homeowners excitedly show them off to their neighbors. SOLAR-IN-A-BOX Like Musk, Estes isn't the typical solar or energy executive. Before SunCulture Solar he developed technology that helps artists and producers make high-quality audio recordings (called Endless Analog) and he's sold equipment to the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Beck. With his shaggy blonde hair, he looks more like one of his former musician customers than a buttoned up solar VP. It was musician friends who introduced him to an island in the Caribbean, where he met residents that pay hundreds or even a thousand dollars per month for electricity from the local utility. Island utilities commonly make energy by burning diesel fuel, which has to be shipped in and is both expensive and dirty. When Estes looked into how residents could buy solar panels instead, he says the options were far too complicated and expensive. So he decided to build his own. SunCulture Solar is backed by a seed round from private investors, which Estes wouldn't disclose, but some of which also financed his audio tech company. At the launch event on Wednesday night, a hand full of those investors, many from Nashville, were in the room to support Estes' second endeavor venture with them. On a trip to SolPad's office in Mountain View, Calif., earlier this month, Fortune got a demo of the mobile version of SolPad, the stand-alone panel that can charge on an apartment balcony and plug into an outdoor outlet. The panel has a variety of novel ways to interact with the user, like a series of colorful LEDs that can twinkle or shine brightly when there's a power outage or during a programmed "party" mode. A method of tapping on the surface of the panel can prompt a voice response and information about how the panel is charging and how much battery energy it has left. Estes has written a "personality engine" that encourages the panel to deliver all sorts of sassy voice responses, like chiding you if you knock the panel over. The company has also created an app, a computing hub and smart plugs that enable a user to run certain home items on solar, and to track a home's energy use. Despite all the smart functions, the eventual cost of the stand alone panel might be a sticking point for some. While the company hasn't disclosed pricing yet, Estes says an individual SolPad Mobile will probably cost between $1,000 and $2,000. In comparison, the most elaborate and powerful home solar device product from off-grid solar company d.light costs $170. Of course, d.light's solar panels don't have all the whiz bang features, and are more meant to help rural customers in sub-Saharan Africa charge cell phones and power radios and TVs. The SolPad for home rooftops is estimated to cost just under $20,000, which sounds high on first glance, but if you recall also includes the battery storage. The company says traditional solar panels with a robust battery system can cost double that at close to $40,000. Many rooftop solar panels these days are sold through leases, loans, and other types of third-party financing that can enable the customer to pay a monthly solar energy bill that is lower than the one they were paying to their utility. Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter. Another aggressive feature of the SolPads is the company's use of solid-state batteries as the panel's storage medium. These types of batteries, produced by companies like Seeo (bought by Bosch) and Sakti3 (bought by Dyson), are meant to be safer, and provide more energy storage per volume, but aren't widely available yet. SunCulture Solar doesn't disclose its battery supplier.As any hardware-focused startup founder will tell you, trying to sell devices (instead of software or services) can be an expensive and difficult endeavor. It can be particularly hard, if, like SunCulture Solar, a company is trying to create an entirely new type of product; a stand alone solar panel that you can interact with (and even talk with) is totally new. References written by: Katie Fehrenbacher Updated: Sep 23, 2016 4:42 PM BST Fortune Tech http://fortune.com/2016/09/22/solpad-solar-panel-batteries/

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Africa Mobile Pay-Go Solar Developer Beats the Odds, Raises $22.5M in Venture Capital

Mobile pay-as-you-go solar pioneer d.light on Sept. 21 announced that it has raised $15 million in Series D equity from KawiSafi Ventures Fund, Energy Access Ventures, Omidyar Network and NewQuest Capital Partners, as well as $2.5 million in debt funding raised through SunFunder. Support from foreign and regional governments, multilateral development banks and non-profit agencies has provided the basis for growth in the pay-as-you-go market by providing credibility and security for investors, as well as critical early stage seed capital that is enabling this innovative new breed of community-based African clean energy services company to develop and grow. Residents and businesses across large swathes of Sub-Saharan Africa are hindered by lack of access to electricity. By and large, utilities and energy/power sector companies have been unable to bridge the energy divide despite financial and technical assistance from multilateral development banks and government agencies. Others have shied away completely, judging the risks and/or costs of building out conventional power generation capacity and grid infrastructure to be prohibitive. The situation has changed dramatically in recent years as a small crop of innovative solar energy startups has emerged and grown. Leveraging low-cost PV solar, battery-based energy storage, mobile payments and cloud-based information and communications technology platforms, fast growing startups, such as BBOX, d.light and Powerhive, have seen surprising success in bringing affordable, reliable, emissions-free electricity to rural residents and businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa. They also have attracted the attention of, and early stage equity capital from, some of the world's leading venture capital (VC) and private equity investment groups. Shell Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development – Development Innovation Ventures and United Nations Capital Development Fund contributed more than $5 million to d.light's latest funding round. Some may find it surprising that leading VC and private equity investors are committing capital to d.light, as well as others in its peer group, such as Powerhive and BBOX. Even more surprising, it appears that d.light can, or is expected to, turn a healthy profit by doing so. Beating the Odds Developer of a growing line of off-grid, cloud-connected solar energy systems and consumer products, d.light is bringing clean, safe affordable and reliable light, electrical power, equipment and devices to local homes and businesses, many of whom have never had it before. Off-grid solar is taking off as a result, and not only in Africa. To date, about 65 million people in Africa, India and Southeast Asia are enjoying the benefits, according to d.light. Management has set a goal of reaching 100 million by 2020. Companies active in the off-grid solar market have received over $250 million since 2014, according to global clean energy market research and communications firm Mercom Capital’s Solar Funding and M&A report. “With almost a billion people living off the grid globally the market potential is estimated to be in the billions of dollars,” Mercom Capital co-founder and CEO Raj Prabhu told Renewable Energy World. “Needless to say, there has been significant interest from investors over the past few years.” According to Prabhu, investors in these companies are a mix of venture capitalists and private equity groups investing to make a great return, as well as social venture investors who want to invest for a social cause. “Some of the companies that are attracting investments in this area are companies focused on off-grid solar lighting, plug-and-play solar, pay-as-you-go solar services, and innovative lending solutions,” he said. September 30, 2016 By Andrew Burger Contributor Renewable Energy World Reference: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2016/09/africa-mobile-pay-go-solar-developer-beats-the-odds-raises-22-5m-in-venture-capital.html

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World's first solar panel road opens in Normandy village

France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village. A 1km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated on Thursday by the ecology minister, Ségolène Royal. It cost €5m (£4.2m) to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents. In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and, despite teething problems, has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh. Before the solar-powered road – called Wattway – was opened on the RD5 road, the panels were tested at four car parks across France. The constructor was Colas, part of giant telecoms group Bouygues, and financed by the state. Normandy is not known for its surfeit of sunshine: Caen, the region’s political capital, enjoys just 44 days of strong sunshine a year compared with 170 in Marseilles. Royal has said she would like to see solar panels installed on one in every 1,000km of French highway – France has a total of 1m km of roads – but panels laid on flat surfaces have been found to be less efficient than those installed on sloping areas such as roofs. Critics say it is not a cost-effective use of public money. Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER) told Le Monde: “It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.” Jean-Louis Bal, president of renewable energy union SER, said: “We have to look at the cost, the production [of electricity] and its lifespan. For now I don’t have the answers.” Colas said the panels have been covered with a resin containing fine sheets of silicon, making them tough enough to withstand all traffic, including HGVs. The company says it hopes to reduce the costs of producing the solar panels and has about 100 other projects for solar-panelled roads – half in France and half abroad. Reference: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/22/solar-panel-road-tourouvre-au-perche-normandy News was copied from: www.guardian.com

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