Scaling up mini-grids through public-private partnerships (PPP) is critical to achieving universal access to modern energy services, concluded delegates attending an international workshop jointly organised by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) Nepal here, today.
"Small-scale renewable energy systems can help solve Nepal’s energy problems without contributing to air pollution and to carbon emissions that cause global warming," said senior climate change specialist at ADB Jiwan Acharya on the last day of the two-day workshop on 'Sharing Business Models and Scaling up Mini Grids in Asia and the Pacific'.
Minister of science, technology and environment Keshab Man Shakya concluded the workshop today after 150 participants shared perspectives from energy enterprises, investors and development partners on how to scale up successful business models through public private partnerships.
A mini-grid is a small electricity network that uses sources like hydro, solar and wind to generate enough power to provide a cluster of towns and villages with reliable supply of electricity that meets local demand.
"Nepal’s population is dispersed across a wide and difficult to reach terrain where it is technically and financially difficult to extend the national grid," said secretary of the ministry of science, technology and environment Keshab Prasad Bhattarai, adding that mini-grids are an important solution to bringing energy to more communities in the country.
AEPC launched the National Rural and Renewable Energy Programme from July, 2012, and it will seek to scale up renewable energy technologies based on the key learnings from this two-day workshop, according to executive director of AEPC Dr Govind Raj Pokharel.
During the workshop, AEPC shared experiences of a recently developed mini-grid system in Baglung, which provides electricity to 1,200 households through six microhydro sites generating a total of 107 kW.
An innovative example of the Bushlight Model — Bushlight Australia and Bushlight India — was also shared at the workshop, highlighting that the Bushlight model distinguishes itself from existing models by enabling communities with the resources, capacity and motivation, the opportunity to access electricity that is reliable 24 hours a day, seven days a week, equitable, each consumer is assured access to a fixed amount of energy every day of a known amount, and residents determine their own ‘daily energy budget’ through the facilitated ‘energy budgeting’ process apart from a known cost as tariff levels are set prior to energy budgeting based on realistic lifecycle system financial models.
Thirty-seven per cent of the country's rural population still has no access to electricity. Across the Asia-Pacific region, nearly 700 million people have no access to electricity. Enterprises are ready to develop more mini-grid projects, but they need help with business planning, design and access to funds.
The Energy for All partnership was formed in 2009 to extend ADB’s support to like-minded organisations and form a coalition that shares the objective of providing modern energy access to 100 million people by 2015. Partners include the governments of Japan, Austria, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland.
More funds for the mini-grid and renewable energy sector are in the pipeline. Jointly with the World Bank and International Finance Corporation, ADB has assisted Nepal in preparing an investment plan for the Scaling-up Renewable Energy Programme to access $40 million from the Climate Investment Funds to support off-grid mini-and micro hydro projects.
"As a Scaling-up Renewable Energy Programme pilot country, Nepal will be in the forefront of efforts to show how tackling climate change is not a trade-off between economic growth and carbon emissions, but a call for creative energy solutions," said ADB's country director for Nepal Kenichi Yokoyama.
"Access to environmentally and socially sustainable energy is essential to reduce poverty," he said, adding that Nepal needs to expand access to small scale renewable energy systems across all parts of the country by mobilising grants, loans, and private sector investments, while also building implementation capacities to this end, and ADB is ready to provide necessary support in this regard.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members — 48 from the region.
Likewise, AEPC is the national focal agency promoting renewable energy technologies across the country. In July 2012, AEPC launched the National Rural and Renewable Energy Program that will extend clean, reliable energy access to two million more households by 2017.AEPC has already connected 1.7 million people to renewable energy solutions.