Alexander Obiechina, CEO of ACOB Lighting Technology Limited in Nigeria is excited to be part of the Africa Mini-grid Developer Association (AMDA) – the first ever association in Africa to bring together stakeholders from the mini grid industry.
ACOB Lighting Technology has been operating in Nigeria since 2016 and with AMDA’s launch in April, Obiechina believes that his company will benefit from this collective platform by increasing access to finance, gaining investors’ confidence and learning from each other’s experiences. This opportunity for him and many other local mini-grid developers couldn’t have come at a better time, as Nigeria is planning to implement 10,000 mini grids to achieve its goal of achieving universal access to energy by 2040.
It might be surprising, but the majority of Central American households receive electricity subsidies, benefiting up to 8 out of 10 households in some cases. Without a doubt, this provides many poor and low-income families with access to affordable electricity.
Electric cars are so popular in the Netherlands that it would not be uncommon, say, for a Tesla to roll up as a taxi outside Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. And it is not tough to find charging stations for these cars in neighborhoods, parking lots, or even along the streets.
To reduce carbon emissions, national and local governments are taking various approaches—and, thus, electric cars, solar home systems, and energy-efficient solutions for buildings are booming in Europe. Cities like Amsterdam are front and center of this transformation. Netherlands, for instance, has an ambitious goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 80–95 percent by 2050 compared with 1990, making it an ideal venue for a Smart Cities Tour earlier this year, where a group of 26 representatives, including national and municipal officials and World Bank project teams, to learn from the Netherlands’ successful experience in energy sector transformation.
For instance, during a site visit to energy network company Alliander, we saw the pilot of a neighborhood battery system (NBS) in Rijsenhout, a town in the Western Netherlands near Amsterdam. The NBS is a local, community-level energy storage system that employs one large battery to stabilize neighborhood power distribution grids, particularly during peak hours. With a significant and increasing number of electric vehicle charging stations and solar panels installed in communities, electric networks are under increasing pressure to handle the variation between solar power during the day and concentrated peak electricity demand in the evenings and nights. Maintaining stable power supply and enhancing the resilience of the electricity grid to spikes in demand are fast becoming real challenges for these communities. While overhauling the power grids to prepare for these challenges could be costly and time-consuming, these small-scale NBS provide a low-cost, smart alternative solution.
In Jamaica, about a quarter of electricity produced is stolen or “lost” through non-paying customers and/or accounting errors. Manual detection has failed to make a difference in reducing this theft.
ESMAP’s technical assistance team implemented a machine learning model to help Jamaican utility JPS identify and decrease incidents of theft.
The machine learning model is based on an open source code, and is available for free to any utility.
About a quarter of the electricity produced by Jamaica’s energy utility, Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is stolen. When traditional, labor-intensive methods failed to produce lasting results, Jamaica tried a different approach: machine learning.
Globally, billions of dollars are lost every year due to electricity theft, wherein electricity is distributed to customers but is never paid for. In 2014 alone, Jamaica’s total power transmission and distribution system reported 27% of losses (due to technical and non-technical reasons), close to double the regional average. While the utility company absorbs a portion of the cost, it also passes some of that cost onto consumers. Both actors therefore have an incentive to want to change this.
To combat this, JPS would spend more than $10 million (USD) on anti-theft measures every year, only to see theft numbers temporarily dip before climbing back up again. The problem was, these measures relied primarily on human-intensive, manual detection, and customers stealing electricity used more and more sophisticated ways to go around regularly metered use. JPS employees would use their institutional knowledge of serial offenders and would spend hours poring over metering data to uncover irregular patterns in electricity usage to identify shady accounts. But it wasn’t enough to effectively quash incidents of theft.
The Global Infrastructure Outlook is a landmark country-based online tool and report developed by the Global Infrastructure Hub with Oxford Economics, which forecasts infrastructure investment needs across 50 countries and seven sectors to 2040.
Although there are already forecasts for infrastructure investment in the market, the public and private sectors indicated their need for fresh, country-level data. Outlook was created to meet that knowledge gap.
For the first time we have data about what each country needs to spend in each sector, and importantly – the gap between what needs to be spent and current spending trends.
Evaluating the optimal way to expand electricity access across a country is difficult, especially in countries where energy related data is scarce and not centralized. Geospatial plans informing universal electricity access strategies and investments can easily take 18 to 24 months to complete.
A team working on a national electrification plan for Zambia last December did not have that much time.
They faced a six-month deadline to develop a plan, or they would miss out on a funding window, said Jenny Hasselsten, an energy specialist at the World Bank brought in to help with the electrification project in partnership with the government of Zambia.
When a mini-grid project came to Atigagome, a remote island in the middle of Ghana’s Lake Volta, the kerosene lamps people had been using became decorative pieces that were hung on the walls—a reminder that the island’s days of darkness were over. But the village not only gave up kerosene lamps and candles: it also attracted people like Seth Hormuku, who migrated to the island once a stable electricity supply was being provided to the local community.
I’ve spent the last 18 years in Sub-Saharan Africa working with governments on making public-private partnerships (PPPs) work for their countries. My interest is not just professional. My wife is Cameroonian and we live with our children in Senegal. I love this region! So I have a deeply personal connection that drives me, and it is important that my work has a positive impact. But the countries I work in are typically very difficult for businesses and investors to operate in and tend to have regulatory systems and investment climates that dissuade private sector investment, which is critical for PPPs to succeed. So, even though it is personally rewarding, this is not an easy job.
“If there is one thing that could really help my business, it would be reliable power supply,” said David, a small business owner in Lagos, on my recent trip to Nigeria.
“I agree. If only …,” echoed another.
Worryingly, the rate of access has been increasing at a mere 5 percentage points every decade, against population growth of 29 percent. If something is not done to dramatically change this trend, Africa will not see universal access to electricity in the 21st century. This is a seriously worrying prospect as the world races toward a 2030 deadline of universal access to electricity.