Africa/Global: Scaling Up Solar
March 21, 2017 (170321)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Even in the United States, where action on climate change is under
aggressive assault by climate deniers in the Trump
administration and Congress, renewable energy is projected to
continue to advance rapidly, on the basis of its still rapidly
growing cost advantages over fossil fuels. According to a report
just released by GTM research, the US total solar market, already
supplying the largest share of new power production, is poised to
triple over the next five years. The prospect for renewable energy
to power increased access to electricity in Africa is also dramatic,
according to a new report from the Africa Progress Panel.
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In both developed countries and in regions where hundreds of
millions lack any access at all to electricity, the technical
capacity for rapid massive expansion of renewable energy supplies
has already been demonstrated. Scaling up, however, requires
financial innovation as well, and that still depends in large part
on public policy as well as private sector financing. Fortunately,
in Africa as well as at the global level, recognition of the
potential benefits is growing almost as fast as technical
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains opening remarks by Kofi Annan on
the launch of a new report by the Africa Progress Panel: “Lights,
Power, Action: Electrifying Africa.” The full report stresses the
central role of off-grid and mini-grid systems in providing access
to electricity for the estimated 620 million Africans currently
without such access. The report, too long and complexly formatted to
be excerpted here, is available in pdf format (http://tinyurl.com/jr8g7q8).
While acknowledging the role of extending the grid and some
continued reliance on large-scale power-production projects, the
report’s emphasis is the demonstrable untapped potential for scaling
up both small-scale household systems and community-level mini-
grids, both of which have been demonstrated in practice as cost-
Also included is the executive summary of a World Resources
Institute study published in December 2016, focusing particularly on
the remarkable success and even-greater potential of “pay-as-you-go”
solar systems, using the case studies of Kenya and Tanzania. The
principal obstacle to scaling up, the study concludes, is not
technical but rather financial. New forms of financing and seed
funds have enormous potential for expansion.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate change and energy,
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Opening remarks by Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel,
at the launch of “Lights, Power, Action: Electrifying Africa” in
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on 13 March 2017.
Africa Progress Panel
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be with you in Abidjan this morning.
Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s
The Africa Progress Panel, which I chair, welcomes the opportunity
to collaborate with the African Development Bank and other key
stakeholders in pushing for the changes we need to see.
It was in that spirit that I gladly accepted President Adesina’s
invitation last year to serve as a lead champion of the New Deal on
Energy in Africa. His leadership in positioning the AfDB at the
forefront of the New Deal process is precisely what is needed to
change the game for Africa.
The Africa Progress Panel first drew attention to the need for
bolder action to electrify Africa faster in our 2015 Report: “Power,
People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate opportunities”.
Two years later, this need remains as urgent as ever.
Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not
have access to “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern
electricity”, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030.
Africa’s energy deficit continues to stifle economic growth, job
creation, agricultural transformation, and improvements in health
and education. Meeting Sustainable Development Goal 7, the energy
goal, is a pre-condition for achieving many of the other goals.
The good news is that we are no longer in the dark, so to speak,
about how to tackle this challenge.
In several countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South
Africa, renewable energy makes up an increasingly important share of
national power generation.
There are also a number of promising initiatives aimed at providing
electricity across borders, mostly drawing on renewable resources
such as solar, wind and hydro power.
We now need to see more of them deployed at far greater scale to
bring power and light to Africans who still lack modern energy.
That is the core message of the APP’s new report, Lights, Power,
Action: Electrifying Africa, which is launched today.
Traditional approaches to extending the grid are no longer viable as
the main option for African countries. They take too long and do not
meet the needs of our growing economies and societies. Instead,
governments and their partners need to re-imagine their energy
We are not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil
fuels and switch to renewable sources of energy. As our report
clearly states, the cost of transitioning to renewables may be
prohibitively high in the short term – especially for countries that
use their sizeable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to
What we are advocating is that African governments harness every
available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Each country
needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically
efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.
To meeting rapidly growing demand, that energy mix will gradually
progress towards greater use of off-grid household systems and mini-
grids. It should also lead to the emergence of more flexible, hybrid
national energy systems that link grids to off-grid generation.
Mobile phone technology has already helped Africa to leapfrog over
conventional technology and to improve financial and social
inclusion. In the same way, we foresee that innovation will bring
millions of Africans into the energy loop, leading to better health,
better education, better access to markets, and better jobs.
Off-grid electricity generation used to be regarded in Africa as a
stop-gap measure – a way to power a few lights during the long wait
for a grid connection. In recent years, the number of households
connected to off-grid power has soared, improving millions of lives
while relieving a chronic shortage of power.
Some of these home systems may in future connect to grids through
buy-back schemes, enabling households to earn extra cash from the
power they generate. Such arrangements are already working in
Australia, some parts of Europe and the United States. Overall,
however, policy and regulatory environments in Africa need to
improve considerably to make such linkages reality.
As we document in our new report, off-grid solar products can act as
rungs on an “energy ladder”, providing a range of energy services to
households and enterprises with different energy needs and incomes.
Mini-grids can also offer sustainable permanent alternatives to
connecting to the grid, especially as reliable and affordable
products come on-stream that are attractive to small and medium-
sized enterprises as well as communities operating far from the
The agenda is clear and the challenges are well known.
As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and
mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard
to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and
Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of
accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures
Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this
malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement. All
continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.
They also highlight why power provision has become a highly
political issue in several countries.
Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that
threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.
So what do African governments and their partners need to do to make
this vision of an empowered Africa a reality?
Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, needs to
step up and champion the “energy for all” agenda.
Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place
regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to
deliver on its transformative potential.
The private sector, African and non-African, should be encouraged to
enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets,
deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment
partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.
While the onus is on African leadership and ownership of this
agenda, Africa’s energy future is also an issue of global relevance.
Although Africa only accounts for a tiny fraction of global
emissions, it wholeheartedly embraced the Paris climate agreement’s
overarching ambition – limiting global warming through unshakeable
and progressive commitment to a low-carbon planet.
The Paris commitment has led the industrialized countries to pledge
billions of dollars to supporting the low carbon transition, in
Africa and elsewhere. However, and as we have repeatedly highlighted
in our reports and our public advocacy, very little of that money is
Ladies and gentlemen,
As our new report shows, where there is good leadership, there are
excellent prospects for energy transition, and leaders in a number
of countries are demonstrating the levels and intensity of political
will needed to address these serious and persistent problems.
We urge governments to put in place the integrated plans and
policies that can scale up Africa’s energy transition. The success
of countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Morocco, Rwanda and
South Africa shows what can be achieved.
Achievements at the national level are essential but only part of
the solution. To fully address the energy challenges, governments
must collaborate more closely on a continental scale. Improved
cross-border power trade is crucial to realising Africa’s energy
potential. Yet less than 8 per cent of power is currently traded
across borders in Sub-Saharan Africa.
There is a glaring need to adopt a more continental approach to
power infrastructure development and management in order to
accelerate regional power integration.
This must involve a greater pooling of electricity resources and
harmonisation of national grids. Massive increases in investment in
regional transmission infrastructure and the development of new
power trading arrangements are also essential.
The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and
fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power
We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s
energy deficit. Now we must focus on implementation.
The time for excuses is over.
It’s time for action.
Stimulating Pay-As-You-Go Energy Access in Kenya And Tanzania: The
Role of Development Finance
World Resources Institute
Sanjoy Sanyal, Jeffrey Prins, Feli Visco, and Ariel Pinchot
Nearly 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack electricity
access. Improving access to affordable and reliable energy is
critical to reducing poverty and improving quality of life (IEA
2011). To improve energy access, it is important to develop
financing and payment schemes that fit consumer energy budgets.
“Pay-as-you-go” (PAYG) business models harness technology to provide
a “one-stop-shop” solution for consumer finance and energy products.
The PAYG model originated in Kenya, and addresses the key challenges
of extending end-user finance and collecting payments from remote
customers who often have erratic and limited cash flow. PAYG
companies, at this point, typically provide basic lighting and
mobile phone charging services. The technology can play an important
role in expanding access to electricity services to remote and low-
This issue brief draws on findings from desk research, workshops,
and inter views with PAYG companies, donors, and development finance
institutions (DFIs) active in energy access in East Africa to assess
how PAYG companies have stepped up to serve the approximately 35
million people in Kenya and 36 million people in Tanzania who lack
access to electricity, as well as additional millions who are
underserved. Our paper also draws on interviews with stakeholders
involved in Bangladesh’s IDCOL program to provide insight into how
DFIs and donors supported the Bangladesh program, in order to elicit
lessons relevant to the Kenyan and Tanzanian contexts. We chose
Bangladesh’s IDCOL program as a reference point for two reasons: the
energy enterprises in Bangladesh perform the same one-stop-shop role
as the PAYG companies, and IDCOL provides an example of where DFIs
have played a significant role in channeling finance (US$750
million) to achieve substantial energy access goals (three million
solar home systems).
Given the nascent stage of most energy access markets, much of the
existing PAYG literature focuses on analyzing the innovative
variations of business models as well as factors that could improve
the enabling environment. However, market players in both Kenya and
Tanzania have evolved beyond an early-stage pilot phase. These
pioneering companies have successfully raised grant, equity, and–
more recently– debt finance to pilot, develop, and scale their
businesses. According to our estimates, they have reached more than
half a million households through rapid sales growth. The market
overall is also evolving, as suggested by the participation of 52
international private sector investors–ranging from foundations to
large companies–and five debt deals struck in 2015, the largest of
which was a US$45 million raise by one company. Market leaders such
as M-KOPA, Mobisol, and Off-Grid Electric have begun expanding into
While encouraging progress has been made, the addressable markets in
Kenya and Tanzania are much larger than those reached by existing
companies so far, and the products they offer need to be larger in
capacity if they are to provide more than basic lighting and mobile
charging. PAYG companies will require about one billion dollars
across these two countries to scale for broader impact. Therefore,
this issue brief focuses on how this broader impact can be created.
We look at how successful PAYG businesses operating in Kenya and
Tanzania have raised finance and the constraints faced by the
industry, and we propose recommendations for how donors and DFIs can
continue to support the development of these markets.
Currently, the various types of capital (debt, impact equity
capital, grant) that PAYG companies need are available almost
exclusively from international investors. Local financial
institutions in Kenya and Tanzania have been hesitant to provide
financing to PAYG customers: they perceive PAYG companies as early-
stage, risky businesses and are unfamiliar with the technology as
well as the creditworthiness of rural consumers. The absence of
local capital sources to some extent explains the fact that almost
all the successful PAYG companies are foreign owned and foreign
managed. Local companies often lack the initial resources, as well
as the networks and skills, to raise both early-stage capital and
develop complex financial structures to raise debt capital from
international markets. Local companies are also hesitant to take on
foreign currency risk.
Technological barriers to the PAYG business are falling, and the
sector is likely to see the entry of a larger number of companies.
This is not yet happening, because access to finance remains a key
entry barrier, particularly for locally owned and managed companies.
Finance is most critically needed to build out marketing, sales, and
service infrastructure and to provide customers with financing. The
relative lack of access to finance results in fewer companies and
less competition in the PAYG sector.
DFIs and donors have a role to play in supporting local financial
institutions to extend local currency debt. In Bangladesh,
international DFIs and donors channeled funds for energy access
through IDCOL, a government-owned financial intermediary. IDCOL also
played a strong role in market development. The market support roles
played by IDCOL can be adapted to the Kenyan and Tanzanian contexts.
The debt- financing role in Kenya and Tanzania can be played by
commercial banks from the very beginning. Involving commercial banks
would have the advantage of ensuring that funds are available to the
sector even after donors withdraw. …
Drawing on the success of the IDCOL program and the unique needs of
PAYG companies, we offer recommendations targeted primarily to DFIs
and donors regarding how they can support local financial
institutions in their efforts to expand energy access in Kenya and
* International DFIs and donors can leverage their long relation-
ships with local financial institutions in Kenya and Tanzania to
stimulate local finance for the PAYG sector. DFIs and donors can
provide guarantee schemes and lines of credit to local banks. This
support would help banks develop a deeper understanding and
familiarity with PAYG business models, and make finance more
accessible to local companies. International DFIs and donors can
“crowd in” private sector investment in PAYG by channeling their
investments through fund of funds run by professional impact
investors and incentivize PAYG companies to invest in targeted
marketing and distribution infrastructure through results-based
financing. DFIs and donors can also provide technical assistance to
public organizations to support capacity building in monitoring and
* Local commercial banks can begin to explore the PAYG sec- tor, and
understand company cash flow patterns, through the provision of
short-term trade finance. They can also explore mechanisms such as a
debt ser vice coverage account to partially cover for default risks.
* National governments can provide support through a suite of policy
and regulatory measures to unlock domestic commercial financing for
distributed renewable energy including, for example, the development
of mechanisms to coordinate roles of institutions in this space and
encourage private sector activity by setting clear national
priorities and releasing grid extension plans to the public.
* Private sector investors can help companies to access different
types of capital and partnerships in response to evolving business
needs. This may include support for raising capital from local
commercial banks. Foundations and family offices can provide loss
guarantees to local banks.
* Private sector PAYG businesses can adopt standardized accounting
standards to assist in transactions with local banks.
The scope of this issue brief is confined to analysis of financing
in support of PAYG solar home system companies. While we recognize
that PAYG products providing lower-level energy services are not
comprehensive solutions to the energy access challenge, we believe
that our recommendations will also support the broader energy access
sector, including mini- and micro-grids.
The Imperatives of the Electricity Access Challenge
Nearly 1.3 billion people, or 18 per cent of the world’s population,
still lack access to grid electricity (IEA 2014a). An additional one
billion are “under electrified,” a status charac terized by unstable
grid connection with regular power outages (A.T. Kearney and GOGLA
2014; IEA 2013). Sub-Saharan Africa bears a disproportionate share
of this burden. Over 620 million people, nearly two-thirds of the
region’s population, are without electricity access (IEA 2014b).
Increasing access to afford- able and reliable energy services is
fundamental to reducing poverty and improving other human
development indicators (IEA 2011).
Electricity access has long been measured by the physical connection
of a household to grid electricity or the presence of a nearby
electric pole. This binary definition of electricity access has
increasingly come into question in recent years, because it fails to
capture the quality of electricity services received by end users.
In response, the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance
Program (ESMAP) has developed a multi-tier framework for defining
and measuring levels of energy access. Under this approach, access
to electricity refers to the ability to obtain electricity that is
characterized by the following attributes: “adequate, available when
needed, reliable, of good quality, affordable, legal, convenient,
healthy and safe for all required applications across households,
productive enterprises and community institutions” (Angelou and
The framework measures electricity access across five tiers; each
tier reflects a specific level of performance of an electricity
supply system defined by the attributes. Tier 1 and Tier 2 are the
low-power capacity levels (minimum 3W and 50W, respectively). At
Tier 1 level, electricity access is defined as providing lighting
and mobile charging for a minimum of four hours per day. At Tier 2
level, access additionally includes the ability to power a fan
and/or television for four hours (see Annex II).
The PAYG businesses that we study in this issue brief provide
electricity access mainly at the Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels through
standalone solar home systems (SHSs). The standalone solar system
comes with a battery, a charge controller, a solar panel and LED
(light emitting diode) bulbs, and a mobile charger. Larger systems
(typically 50W and above) can potentially connect direct current
(DC) appliances such as a television. Even at lower tiers of
electricity access, there are numerous household-level benefits.
These benefits stem from the fact that the SHSs replace alternate
sources, which are often very expensive.
Previous WRI research conducted in collaboration with the
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis indicates that
household kerosene use is significantly lower for house- holds with
SHSs, even when compared with grid customers. While 80 percent of
households with access to grid electricity continue to use kerosene,
only about 25 percent of homes with SHSs use kerosene. The
reliability of SHS electricity supply may explain this finding (Rao,
Agarwal, and Wood 2016). Other research indicates benefits such as
prevention of GHG emissions (both carbon dioxide and black soot)
(Kaufman et al. 2000; Wang et al. 2011), increased household
disposable income because of reduced spending on kerosene and
candles (Mills 2005; Tracy and Jacobson 2012), health benefits such
as reduced accidents and indoor pollution (Mills 2014; Samad et al.
2013) and social benefits such as increased evening study hours for
children (A.T. Kearney and GOGLA 2014; Khan and Azad 2014; Samad et
The Importance of “Pay-as- You-Go” (PAYG)
Previous WRI research has underscored the importance of designing
financing and payment schemes that fit consumer energy budgets. The
research notes that energy enterprises have to design innovative
financing and payment schemes to encourage consumers to purchase
their products, because customers are accustomed to buying energy in
small increments (Ballesteros et al. 2013). …
PAYG is a technology-driven method that allows consumers to pay the
lease amount for a given energy system or pay a fee for the service
of using the system. It uses information technology to enable remote
activation with payment receipt (Alstone et al. 2015). PAYG includes
a range of business models, which differ as to how payments are
accepted and to whom the ownership of the system ultimately
devolves. From the consumer’s point of view, the PAYG model offers a
one-stop shop, where the product and the financing are available
from the same source. The willingness of companies to finance
products gives customers confidence in the new technology. Indeed,
energy companies have tried to partner with microfinance
institutions (MFIs) but often with limited success. The energy
service companies have typically been smaller than their counterpart
MFIs, and partnerships have been hard to manage given the differing
expectations of the two parties. In Kenya, for example, consumers
could not access technical maintenance services from the energy
companies, which were limited in their geographic outreach. The poor
after-sales service left many customers dissatisfied with their
products, which in turn led to a refusal to repay loans (Rolffs,
Byrne, and Ockwell 2014).
The benefits of the PAYG model in providing a one-stop-shop solution
to customers are several. As we have already noted, the offer of
finance by the energy company instills trust in consumers regarding
the quality of the product. Operational efficiency is improved
because there is no need for coordination between finance providers
and technology providers. With PAYG, the companies are able to
provide longer-term loans than those usually offered by MFIs. PAYG
models also allow the provision of relatively large credit amounts
(to cover the cost of the renewable energy system) to consumers
whose credit worthiness may be unknown. The credit risk is partially
mitigated by the incentive system that links payments to service
provision. PAYG approaches, which use mobile communication
technologies, also reduce the costs associated with collecting
repayments (Rolffs, Byrne, and Ockwell 2014). Finally, PAYG enables
significant data collection. This gives enterprises the advantage of
understanding product performance and consumer behavior (Alstone et
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