A brighter year for the sector; looking back at 2018
Dec 20, 2018
Koen Peters, GOGLA Executive Director
As the year draws to a close, we’ve taken a moment to reflect on what 2018 has meant for GOGLA, for our members and for the sector.
Here are our top five GOGLA highlights of 2018:
Biennial sector forum: We started the year with our Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo in Hong Kong in January. The conference brought together 700 people from over 64 countries. Now a major biennial landmark event for the sector, this year’s was the biggestand most productive conference to date.
Leading the way with consumer protection: With the consumer lying at the heart of the off-grid solar industry, we continue to see how customers are driving demand and inspiring GOGLA members to offer an expanding range of products and services. This year GOGLA and its members have taken the lead in developing a sector-wide 'Code of Conduct' to protect the consumer. We spearheaded the project, funded by the DOEN Foundation, CDC Group and FMO, developing and implementing a set of principles on how off-grid solar companies should engage with their customers.
Powering Opportunity: July saw the launch of a major new GOGLA report: Powering Opportunity. This milestone publication reports on the life-changing social and economic impact that the sector is having on millions of lives. Nearly 60% of off-grid solar owners, for example, undertake more economic activity within just three months of using a solar home system; they work longer, start businesses or get a new job. And 94% of households say their product has improved their quality of life.
Community of Champions: In November, we co-hosted a ‘Community of Champions’ event in Kigali, Rwanda, jointly with some of our key partners. The meeting provided an opportunity for a lively exchange between governments, the private sector and development partners, with the goal of finding ways of working collaboratively towards a supportive policy environment to achieve universal energy access in Africa.
Unlocking Solar Capital Africa: Jointly organized by SolarPlaza and ourselves, the Unlocking Solar Capital Africa conference in November brought together 300 stakeholders in Kigali. The event stimulated discussions around the different financing needs of the sector, the importance of consumer protection and how to be profitable in low-income contexts. We’ve seen some early successes and failures as a sector, but the market is learning and growing fast. During the event, we launched a new initiative – PAYGO PERFORM – designed to process, analyze and report on PAYGO finance in an open and transparent way and to stimulate further investment.
What happened across the sector this year?
The sector has become more mainstream over the last twelve months; a huge achievement, made increasingly evident e.g. in the rise in interest of European utilities companies in the off-grid solar sector, and in recent investments made. The sector has collectively been moving more and more people up the ‘energy staircase’ in the developing world, too, proven by the increased installed capacity (as reported in our Semi-Annual Sales and Impact Data report) and by a number of findings in the Powering Opportunity report too.
We’re seeing the sector mature further, with specialized players coming to the fore, and some focusing on specific elements of the supply chain. This indicates an overall improved eco-system for the industry. We’re also seeing energy access plans of governments, and the forecasts of those who have traditionally informed them on energy strategy, increasingly including off-grid solar as a key component.
Bumps in the road?
Like many young sectors, we still have mountains to climb. But those mountains are less daunting than they were a few years ago, and many are within our reach. Most companies are still experiencing access to finance among their top challenges. A growing number of companies are reporting ‘black numbers’ but many are not quite there, and the topic of ‘the pathway to profitability’ made it onto several agendas at sector events this year. And while more and more governments are interested in off-grid solar, we’re still seeing a poor level of understanding from many on how to promote markets or work with the private sector. The risks of governments introducing regulation that could be damaging to the sector, in particular around standards, consumer protection and electronic waste remains something we continue to watch. There also remains the question of how public and private funding can best work together. But we will work with our members and partners to tackle these challenges and ensure the future of off-grid solar remains brighter than ever.
As we cheer in 2019, we edge closer to a major milestone year for the sector; 2030 is the target year for universal energy access, so there remains a huge amount to be done over the next decade.
With our new ‘Power Up’ project we will work on building capacity across national associations, with the aim of overall improved government engagement globally.
We will produce a series of short papers on investment that will focus on the very latest investment trends and data.
For the first time, we will have employment numbers of the supply chain for our sector, helping to highlight the enormous impact we’re having for human capacity development. Also, for the first time, we will collect sales data on appliances beyond lighting.
We’re excited to be welcoming some promising new kids on the block, many already making great progress across some markets, in particular from productive use appliances companies.
And much, much more….
With the total capital raised within the sector in the last two years approaching $600m it was estimated earlier this year that by 2022 we will, as an industry, be providing improved energy access to 740 million people. We look towards 2019 and beyond with great confidence that the industry will continue to perform and deliver impact.
So, let’s get on with it. Let’s go further, faster, together.
We wish all our members, partners and friends happy holidays and a bright, bold 2019!