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off-grid solar

Electricity and the internet: two markets, one big opportunity

Anna Lerner's picture
The markets for rural energy access and internet connectivity are ripe for disruption – and increasingly, we’re seeing benefit from combining the offerings.
 
Traditionally, power and broadband industries have been dominated by large incumbent operators, often involving a state-owned enterprise. Today, new business models are emerging, breaking market barriers to jointly provide energy access and broadband connectivity to consumers.
 
As highlighted in the World Development Report 2016, access to internet has the potential to boost growth, expand economic opportunities, and improve service delivery. The digital economy is growing at 10% a year—significantly faster than the global economy as a whole. Growth in the digital economy is even higher in developing markets: 15 to 25% per year (Boston Consulting Group).
 
To make sure everyone benefits, coverage needs to be extended to the roughly four billion people that still lack access to the internet. In a testing phase, Facebook has experimented with flying drones and Google has released balloons to provide internet to remote populations.
 
But as cool as they might sound, these innovations do nothing for the one billion people who still live off the grid… and don’t have access to the electricity you need to use the internet in the first place! The findings of the Internet Inclusion Summit panel which the World Bank joined recently put this nicely: “without electricity, internet is only a black hole”.
 
That’s why efforts to expand electricity and broadband access should go hand in hand: close coordination between the energy and ICT sectors is probably one of the most efficient and sensible ways of making sure rural populations in low-income countries can reap the benefits of digital development. This thinking is also reflected in a new generation of disruptive telecom infrastructure projects.

Energy storage: A critical piece of the power puzzle

Peter Mockel's picture
 Aarthi Sivaraman


Just months after a historic climate conference in Paris, I can’t help but marvel at how far the world has progressed in the uptake of renewable energy. Take solar power, for example. What used to be a prohibitively expensive endeavor just years ago, is now a household-level solution in many countries. Then there are the record-setting solar auctions in countries like Zambia, the United Arab Emirates, India, Mexico, and Peru.

So what’s the next critical piece of the puzzle in our global efforts to provide sustainable energy for all?

In my view – and that of many others – it is to establish a viable, stationary solution to store energy. While stationary energy storage on a large scale has always been around – hydro energy storage, as an example, is efficient and cost effective – it is tied to topography and difficult to add at will. The cost of batteries has also been a big obstacle to widespread deployment and was a primary reason for the electricity grid to be designed as the biggest real-time delivery systems humans have ever made.

Energizing our green future

Mafalda Duarte's picture
The CIF is a leader in driving global investments in CSP


​As world leaders come together at the UN General Assembly to adopt new sustainable development goals, climate change activists gear up for Climate Week in New York City and the Pope brings his message to the United Nations, a shared vision of our future is coming into clear focus. 

If we are to eradicate poverty, we need to tackle climate change.  And since 2008, the $8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF) has been showing it is possible for countries to pursue sustainable development in a way that does just that.

​Are we harnessing the power of the sun?

Isabel Chatterton's picture

Also available in: العربية


Are we harnessing the power of the sun? With the success of rooftop solar and other initiatives, we’re beginning to head in the right direction.
 
Photo: Bernd Sieker/flickr

Solar success has come from unexpected quarters. For example, Germany is probably not the first country that comes to mind when you think of sunshine, but we can follow Germany’s lead. It’s the world’s biggest small-scale photo-voltaic user with an installed capacity of 32 gigawatts, and 60 percent of capacity is from solar panels that are installed on people's roofs.

Germany also launched a 100,000 rooftops program, which provided concessional, 10-year loans along with attractive feed-in tariffs to further incentivize households to participate. This was soon after the success of its pilot 1,000 rooftops program, which created the right incentives and targets were achieved a year ahead of schedule – in 2003. 
 
Germany, Japan and the U.S. state of California are fulfilling their strong solar power potential, and we could all learn from their examples – especially nations that haven’t yet explored the proven promise of solar.
 
Statistics like these convince me that there is so much more we can and must do. I’m heartened that progress in India has been steady, with successes that prove the country is ready for more.

Lighting up the future in Bangladesh

Yann Doignon's picture

Children using a computer powered by solar energy

Night falls in Dhaka. Commercial streets glow with lights and the neon-lit stores and restaurants are abuzz with shoppers enjoying a break from Ramadan. This is a great visual spectacle punctuated by the incessant honking of colorful rickshaws.

But the reality is different right outside the capital. Sunset brings life to a halt in rural areas as about 60 percent of rural households do not have access to grid electricity. Kerosene lamps and battery-powered torches are widespread yet limited alternatives, their dim light offering limited options for cooking, reading or doing homework.  

It is a sweltering hot day when our team sets out to visit a household of 14 in the village of Pachua, a two-hour drive from Dhaka. Around 80% of the villagers have benefited from the solar panel systems to access electricity. The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED), supports installation of solar home systems and aims to increase access to clean energy in rural Bangladesh.
 
We’re accompanied by Nazmul Haque Faisal from IDCOL, a government-owned financing institution, which implements the program. “This is the fastest-growing solar home system in the world,” Faisal says enthusiastically, “and with 40,000-50,000 new installations per month, the project is in high demand.”

We’ve now reached our destination and Monjil Mian welcomes us to his house, which he shares with 13 other members of his family, including his brothers, two of them currently away for extended work stints in Saudi Arabia.

Solar lights aimed at African market work overtime around Washington Beltway

Christopher Neal's picture

When I heard that Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank’s new president, was to meet staff in the energy department where I work on his first day at work July 2, it occurred to me that a good way to introduce him to our work in sustainable energy would be a quick demo of solar lanterns.

I suggested it to my colleague Katherine Steel, the manager of Lighting Africa, a joint Bank-IFC program that has created markets for off-grid solar lights in Africa.