“Africa Electrification Initiative (AEI) is a very good initiative that has the ability to catalyze electrification in Africa, particularly in rural areas.” This was a comment made by one of the participants of the AEI Workshop in Maputo, Mozambique this past June. More than 170 individuals from 42 countries attended the workshop: Operational Issues In Scaling Up Electricity Access In Africa. The purpose of the workshop was to share practical information on ground level implementation issues relating to rural, peri-urban and urban electrification. Included among the attendees were 130 representatives from African ministries of energy and power, local and national utilities, energy and electricity regulatory entities, rural electrification agencies, research centers and non-governmental organizations representing 32 African nations.
The workshop was the main activity in the first year of existence of the Africa Electrification Initiative (AEI). The workshop led to the following outcomes relevant for other projects (i) share practical information on ground level implementation issues relating to rural, peri-urban and urban electrification; (ii) create a network of electrification practitioners; (iii) refine the topic areas where SSA practitioners face the most constrains and that are of greatest interest to them; and (iv) define the AEI follow up activities and the most appropriate long-term knowledge dissemination mechanisms.
Workshop Proceedings (Full Report, includes presentations and speakers' bios)
Working Group Session Write Ups
List of Participants
Workshop Evaluation Report
Resources in the Workshop Bag
Presentations and Bios By Session:
Session 1: Grid Extension: An institutional overview of the challenge of rural electrification and how progress has been achieved in SSA and other developing countries. Several illustrative cases were presented by practitioners, including an analysis of lessons learned.
Session 2: Offgrid Business Models: Many national utilities in SSA are unable to expand their grid fast enough, due to financial, technical and capacity constraints. Even where this is not an issue, social fairness sometimes requires solutions for remote regions with dispersed users who cannot be reached by the grid. The session presented working technology solutions and business models for low-cost offgrid alternatives for such cases, often based on PPPs.
Session 3: Hybrid Electrification Models: This session focused on alternatives to government-led electrification undertaken by ministries, state-owned enterprises or combinations of the two which were the focus of Session 1. These alternatives included private sector operators bidding for large regional concessions, electricity cooperatives buying at wholesale from a national utility and local and regional power companies working with a national utility.
Session 4: Rural Electrification Agency and Rural Electrification Fund: Many countries in SSA have established a new institutional framework supporting rural electrification through establishing rural energy agencies and funds. The session analyzed the experiences with this model, compared different institutional approaches for REA and REF and identified key lessons learned, and challenges. The main question remains: what are the key drivers of successful REA/REF programs?
Session 5: Grid Intensification, Innovation and Cost: This interactive session discussed technical and management innovations for grid expansion, with a special focus on peri-urban electrification, low-cost technologies and densification of existing networks (also known as intensification). What technical solutions, innovations and business models can be deployed to make access expansion more affordable and sustainable for users and utilities?
Session 6: Offgrid Technology and Lighting Africa: Currently 500 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity; 90% of the rural population has no access. Among the poorest of the poor, lighting is often the most expensive item among their energy uses, typically accounting for 10% of total household income. New "breakthrough" advancements in lighting technologies (such as LEDs, chapter solar home systems, etc.) promise to deliver lower-cost, clean, durable and higher-quality lighting for areas not served by the utility. The session explored the latest technological advancements in offgrid electrification and lighting solutions, as well as the opportunities -and challenges- for marketing strategies, electrification policies and quality control.
Session 7: Can Masterplans work? What is the application reality of master plan planning approaches? Are Masterplans appropriate at all, given that PPI follows price signals and master plans are often outdated by the time they are published? Could there be quicker, more flexible, less expensive or more participatory alternatives for rural electrification (RE) planning? This session reviewed cases from different countries and explored the planning processes and subsequent implementation.
Session 8: Pro Access Regulation: How can regulation help, rather than hinder, electrification? The two universal tasks of economic regulation are setting maximum and minimum prices and establishing minimum technical and commercial quality of service standards. Since the economics of rural electrification are often precarious, it is generally agreed that regulatory systems applying to electrification activities must be “light handed.” This session presented case studies on different approaches to light handed regulation.
Session 9: Effective M&E: Electrification scale-up in Africa will require rigorous, yet low-cost and practical monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to guide the programs, plan and measure impacts, and collect lessons learned for improvements. The session presented M&E tools and components that work and typical conclusions that can be drawn from evidence-based evaluation.
Session 10: Enhancing impacts: Electrification programs should pay special attention to the uptake, usage and impacts of new electricity access and include socially and economically productive uses as integral program elements. Complementary services such as access to roads, information technologies, finance or training may increase electrification impacts and demand density in specific cases. The session presented practical ways in which electrification projects have fostered productive uses or complementary services and identified lessons and limitations.
Session 11: Financing (and Subsidies) for Utilities: This session looked at specific cases of utilities and their financial and subsidy issues. The presentations were very short and straight forward to allow for more contrasting cases.
Session 12: Financing (and Subsidies) for Small Providers: Small providers face specific challenges: financial and technical capacity is often low, and regulation frequently overlooks their needs. On the other hand, they are close to the customers and sometimes more flexible than large utilities. At the same time, they often operate minigrids, charge batteries or sell solar home systems - and these technologies have specific requirements. Finally, their customers are usually poor while investment and managing and operating (M&O) costs are usually higher than for grid extension. Thus, commercial funding is hard to obtain and subsidies are practically always needed to close the affordability gap for new users. How to improve the access of small providers to financing and subsidies?
Session 13: User Financing via MFI and Utility Bills: Affordability of electricity service is a key issue in Sub-Saharan Africa. How to close the gap between high costs of the service and low capacity to pay? This session presented promises and limitations of microfinance solutions and utility pre-finance schemes for electrification. It covered grid extension as well as different offgrid technologies as the design of successful user financing schemes differs from technology to technology.
Session 14: Climate Change and Access: The purpose of the session was: (i) demonstrate the existence of CDM/carbon finance opportunities in Africa; (ii) explore some of the recent approaches and methodologies which could facilitate Africa’s greater participation in CDM (e.g. Program of Activities approach), with some emerging examples in Africa and worldwide; and (iii) explore other financing opportunities for electricity access arising from the increased global focus on climate change.
Session 15: A Subsidy Clinic: How to design and improve access subsidies: This interactive 3.5 hour session discussed the practical steps involved in designing and evaluating subsidies in real cases, using a new tool – the Subsidy Matrix. Specific cases for grid and offgrid subsidies were presented and discussed. In addition, participants had the opportunity to start presenting their own subsidy design questions, for ongoing or future access programs.