Photo by Adam Gregor/ Shutterstock.com
The theme of this year’s Global Infrastructure Forum was delivering sustainable and inclusive infrastructure. As a woman who works in the world of infrastructure, I was invited to join a panel at the forum made up solely of women to address gender inclusivity and was asked to provide a specific example of a project beneficial to women. The first thing that came to mind was our solar project in Senegal, which has not only opened up the country to solar for the first time, but has also empowered local women through training in business skills through an organization called Empow’Her that was linked to the project.
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.
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Private Sector Development
- Sustainable Communities
- World Development Report 2016
- digital development
- Digital Development Partnership
- digital dividends
- Rural Communities
- infrastructure sharing
- solar energy
- off-grid solar
- Rural Development
- mobile money
- financial inclusion
- Disruptive Technologies
- high-speed Internet
- Internet Access
- Broadband Internet
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) require the coordination of an impressive number of stakeholders to mobilize the commercial financing needed to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth in challenging environments. A great deal of analysis, negotiation, and hard work goes into every project. And each one presents an opportunity to encourage investors to venture into countries and compete for projects they wouldn’t have considered before and, ultimately, to create new markets.
While the commercial and legal challenges involved in structuring PPPs are well known, the efforts that go into conducting rigorous technical due diligence are less well known. For example, projects that aim to provide utility scale solar PV on short order, like the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program, require a team of experienced engineers from IFC’s Energy and Water Advisory working hand in hand with our PPP transaction advisors, legal experts, and environmental and social specialists to make them a reality.
I recently took part in #skipthegrid, a social media forum about renewables, which has led me to ask: “Is off-grid the way of the future for energy Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in lower-income countries?”
At the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) we are supporting smaller, off-grid projects in the lowest income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia by mobilizing private investment for the provision of power to commercial off-grid properties and the construction of mini-grids.
It does not happen often that one of the finest actors of our time tweets about a World Bank supported project and invites all his fans to have a look at the impressive pictures taken from space. In fact, I can’t remember having seen that before.
But this is what Oscar winner and climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio did a few months ago when the Noor Concentrated Solar Plant (CSP) in Morocco—the largest CSP plant in the world - was opened. Once finalized, in two years, it will provide clean energy to 1.1 million households. I visited the plant two weeks ago and it is truly an impressive site. The indirect benefits of the project might even be larger: it has advanced an important and innovative technology, it has driven down costs of CSP, and it holds important lessons for how public and private sectors can work together in the future.
I am proud that the World Bank, jointly with the African Development Bank and a number of foreign investors, supported this cutting-edge solar energy project. But it was made possible thanks to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which put in US$435 million to “de-risk” the investment, playing an essential role to kickstart the deal.
This number cannot be emphasized enough – more than 1 billion people around the world live without access to electricity, and 2.9 billion still cook with polluting, harmful fuel like firewood and dung.
As we celebrate Earth Day, we're looking at the ways to bring energy access to those communities and transform lives, and at the same time, protect our planet’s resources. How can we make sure that the right progress for communities is the right progress for the planet?
The good news is that the world is constantly coming up with new technology to address this challenge. We have portable, phone-charging solar lamps and energy efficient cookstoves that are affordable and practical for communities living off-the-grid. The challenge now is how to make sure the right technologies are available in affordable and sustainable ways to the communities that need them most.
Solar Sister is a social enterprise that recruits, trains, and supports African women launch clean-energy businesses in their communities, selling lights and cookstoves to their neighbors. We are organized around the principle that women must be intentionally included in discussions around energy.
What are some stories that caught your attention in 2015?
They are ones that focus on people, data and events tied to sustainable growth, climate action and efforts to end energy poverty.
As we look ahead to 2016 we’d like to recap 12 popular stories that many of you read and shared in 2015. Thank you for a year of continued and growing readership. Tell us in a comment what you’d like to hear more of in the next year.
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Bala who was born in a small village in Pavagada Taluk, Karnataka, where, agriculture was the main source of income—much like in many other villages in India. But as he grew up, he saw most of his friends choosing to move to cities, because scant rainfall had made it impossible to pursue agriculture and make enough money to make ends meet at home. Village elders turned to superstition to explain the phenomenon, while others blamed climate change for the drop in rainfall. Eventually, Bala also moved to the city of Bangalore, but always dreamed of bringing prosperity back to his village.
Looks like Bala’s dream will come true in 2016. Early next year, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will break ground for one of the largest solar parks (2 GW) in the world—in Pavagada Taluk.
While responsible for only a small share of global emissions, the country is taking big steps to curb them.
In the next few weeks, Morocco is preparing to commission the first phase of what will be the largest concentrated solar power plant of its kind in the world. The 510 MW Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) complex was first conceived as part of the Moroccan Solar Plan (MSP) adopted in 2009 to significantly shift the country’s energy policy and climate change agenda, which is particularly relevant with the climate conference (COP21) happening in Paris.
This is no small feat—currently, Morocco depends on fossil fuel imports for over 97 percent of its domestic power needs, making it particularly susceptible to regional conditions and volatility in oil prices.
The country is determined to change that, with plans to boost the amount of electricity it generates from renewable sources to 42 percent of its total capacity by 2020. This entails developing and commissioning at least 2,000 MW of solar and 2,000 MW of wind capacity in a relatively short timeframe.
The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) was established to implement MSP’s solar targets in conjunction with the Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable (ONEE), Morocco’s national electricity and water utility. Noor-Ouarzazate is the first of a series that MASEN expects to commission by 2020 to achieve its renewable energy target.
The investment needs for low-carbon, climate-resilience growth are substantial. Public resources can bridge viability gaps and cover risks that private actors are unable or unwilling to bear, while the private sector can bring the financial flows and innovation required to sustain progress. For this partnership to reach its full potential, investors need to be provided with the necessary signals, enabling environments, and incentives to confidently invest in emerging economies.