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Clean Energy Ministerial 4 (CEM4)

17–18 April 2013, New Delhi, India

Mini-Grid Development

Overview

Solutions to the limitations of rural energy access around the world require use of both centralized and decentralized power systems. In 2010, the International Energy Agency estimated that, “to achieve universal access to electricity, 70% of the rural areas that currently lack access will need to be connected using mini-grid or off-grid [decentralized] solutions.” Mini-grids and other decentralized solutions may be more attractive than larger, centralized solutions in rural areas for a number of reasons. First, they can often be deployed more rapidly than grid solutions. Second, they do not rely on extending grid-connected generation capacity, a much larger, resource intensive and longer term effort. Third, mini-grid solutions provide local business development and job creation opportunities. Importantly, they are also customizable to local contexts and needs. Even in areas with the prospect of future power system development, mini-grids can play an important role of providing near-term electrification. Once the grid extends to these areas, the installed mini-grids can provide reliability and ancillary services to the grid-connected regions.

Emerging mini-grid research and deployment, particularly renewable energy powered mini-grids, has demonstrated the benefits of these technologies. Consequently, there is substantial interest in different aspects of mini-grids such as innovative business models, financial and tariff models, the integration of smart grid technologies and load management, and technology performance and standards. While fossil fuels play a major role in on-grid electricity generation, renewable sources are likely to dominate in mini-grid and decentralized solutions (IEA, 2012). Still, barriers to scaling up remain. A CEM roundtable on mini-grids offers an important opportunity to synthesize the lessons-learned from this history, and bring together practitioners and policymakers to cooperatively identify the barriers to further scaling up mini-grids, and also discuss potential solutions to addressing these barriers, as a key component of achieving universal energy access.

Stakeholder meetings were held in preparation for this roundtable to discuss different factors affecting mini-grid installations, which helped inform the scope of the roundtable.

View the pre-read presentation.

Discussion Topics

  • What are the market barriers for the scale up of mini-grids?
  • What are viable business and financing models for mini-grids that provide energy access with and without the prospect of grid-connection in the future?
  • What are the policies and regulatory frameworks that are required to support commercially viable mini-grids, in particular the renewable generation based mini-grids?
  • Are there technologies, load management approaches, standards, or other enabling factors that would create cost-effective mini-grids for both consumers and installers?