Johanna Diecker, Program Manager Enabling Environment
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), close to 200 million people will need to gain energy access through off-grid standalone solutions if the world wants to achieve the goal of universal access by 2030. At GOGLA we do think that this number will have to be even higher. In any case, it is evident that off-grid solar solutions promoted by the private sector are and will be playing an increasingly vital role in delivering energy access with off-grid solar solutions. Yet the sector found itself surrounded by increasingly adversative policy environments in the last 12 months. Literally overnight, companies and GOGLA were confronted with substantial policy changes such as demonetization in India and discontinuation of import duty exemptions in East Africa. Owing, among other factors, to these changing policy environments, the market has not been performing as strongly as it could have.
But how does this all add up? Why do governments introduce policy measures that contradict their own targets? The underlying problem is that policy makers are not aware. While governments continued to focus on grid extension, trying to address the energy access challenges through grand infrastructure plans, the private sector provided improved electricity access for more than 120 million people with off-grid solar standalone solutions. For the last few years, the off-grid solar sector has been operating under the radar of most policy makers. With the increasing success of GOGLA members, some governments are starting to take note. However, they often are still missing the understanding for the opportunities new business models and evolved technology are offering – and most importantly – what the government’s role is in accelerating market development.
To increase awareness among policy makers and to outline steps the government can take to promote market development, GOGLA is pursuing a dedicated and proactive government outreach strategy in cooperation with partner organizations and development partners. Promoting exchange between the industry and governments in continued dialogues will be key to ensuring favourable policy environments for the sector. Today, GOGLA is hosting together with the African Development Bank (AfDB) the first edition of a ‘government industry dialogue day’, which brings together industry, policy makers from more than 20 African countries, and key development partners. Driving policy topics, such as integrated electrification planning, quality assurance, fiscal incentives, and the right use of public funding will be discussed during the day.
At the event, we will also be launching the ‘Providing Energy Access Through Off-Grid Solar: Guidance for Governments’ note. This guide builds on GOGLA industry opinions, inputs from our working groups, and was developed with the support of the joint World Bank/International Finance Corporation Lighting Global Program, the U.S. Government-led Power Africa initiative; Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and the AfDB. This document reflects our shared views with regards to key policy and regulatory issues in the standalone, off-grid solar sector. Thanks go to the World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for providing technical advice. The note will serve as a tool for anyone who would like to engage governments in a dialogue on promoting energy access. Designed as a living document, it will be updated regularly to ensure it stays relevant in a market that is evolving as quickly as this one.
GOGLA is inviting all partners and members to join forces in reaching faster further by promoting enabling policy environments. Energy access is, after all, a policy choice!