16 November 2017, Sweetcrude, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire — At the first edition of the Off-Grid Government-Industry Dialogue (OGID) Day on 24 October 2017 in Abidjan, 80 representatives of African governments and practitioners from the off-grid energy industry discussed the vital role of off-grid energy solutions in delivering universal energy access across Africa. Organized by GOGLA, the voice of the off-grid solar sector, and the African Development Bank (AfDB), the OGID Day highlighted the need for close collaboration between governments and companies to scale up the reach of off-grid energy solutions and accelerate progress towards universal energy access. The event was supported by the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP).
At the OGID Day, GOGLA and key development partners launched a guidance note for governments, sharing recommendations for policy-makers about how they can support the off-grid renewable energy sector in bringing reliable access to clean energy to millions of households and businesses. Driven by technological advances and innovative business models, the off-grid solar sector has already improved energy access for at least 120 million people globally. The AfDB has a target to deliver 75 million new off-grid household connections by 2025 in the context of its ‘New Deal on Energy for Africa’ strategic programme.
Key outcomes and highlights from the OGID Day include:
- Predictability of the legal framework is required, particularly in the areas of tax, customs duty and the openness of markets to the private sector to encourage investment within consistent operating conditions
- Partnership and dialogue between stakeholders including government representatives, development partners, and the off-grid industry is essential for expansion at scale to take place
- Affordability is the responsibility of everyone. All actors in the energy supply chain must focus on an end result – cheap energy at higher tiers of access
- Integrated electrification planning is not only a top-down approach where master electrification planning builds an entry point for off-grid electrification, but also a bottom-up approach where consumer data about affordability and demand is key for an integrated planning
- The importance of having national platforms for off-grid stakeholder engagement and the importance of setting up a Rural Energy Fund
- Togo highlighted the importance of government as an enabler for national off-grid initiatives and the importance of attracting the private sector with an enabling regulatory framework.
- Leveraging the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in support of the sector
- Sierra Leone raised the issues of low mobile money penetration, particularly in West Africa and the necessity to support this sector if it is to effectively enable pay-as-you-go off-grid solutions. Sierra Leone also stated that it is important to raise consumer awareness about the opportunity that solar home systems represent
- The identification of a need for better evidence and data about the socioeconomic impact of off-grid solar energy access to boost the case for fiscal incentives which support solar products; many jobs are being created relating to sales and distribution channels, however the manufacturing and assembling of solar technologies are largely occurring outside Africa.
- Public funding for off-grid energy should primarily be used to address market failures and should be designed to unlock additional commercial activity or private investment
- Ongoing collaboration and cooperation between governments, industry and sector facilitators is required if the adoption of internationally harmonized standards and management of certification schemes in the off-grid energy industry are to be successful
- When performing integrated electrification planning, governments should consider factors such as actual energy consumption and the availability of mobile money.
Ousseynou Nakoulima, Director of Renewable Energy at the AfDB said: “Off-grid solutions can induce a paradigm shift in access to clean energy in Africa. As the sector is still in its early years, this kind of dialogue between stakeholders is important to mitigate risks and ensure investments that are sustainable with a high impact on customers.”
“Energy access is a policy choice”, Koen Peters, GOGLA’s Executive Director, concluded after the meeting. “With officials from over 20 countries attending the OGID Day, we see a strong interest from governments in off-grid energy as the fastest path towards universal energy access. We applaud AfDB’s leadership in promoting off-grid energy across the continent. While this event was a first successful milestone, GOGLA will continue to collaborate closely with the Bank, governments and key partners to create a policy environment enabling our sector to realize its potential for bringing affordable, reliable and clean energy access to hundreds of millions of people.”
Following the successful premiere, GOGLA and AfDB will continue their close collaboration planning to organize additional off-grid government-industry dialogues in the near future.