For our first episode titled ‘The off-grid solar market in 2021: Resilience, recovery and ramping up new capital’ we were joined by our guests Sarah Bieber, Head of Energy Partnerships at Acumen, and Koen Peters, Executive Director at GOGLA, to discuss how we as the off-grid solar sector have experienced the pandemic and how it has affected energy access.
Here are our top key takeaways from the conversation:
1. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us the true importance of energy access, and that the demand from people for lights, phones, and appliances is even stronger in times of need. Off-grid solar helped improve health, safety, and opportunity for families across the developing world, but there are still so many people without access. This is a story that we need to tell more widely. To continue growing as a sector and deliver impact to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, we need to grow beyond our current group of investors, who have been rallying around the industry.
2. The Energy Access Relief Fund was born out of industry solidarity. The concern that companies would be badly affected by the pandemic had investors, donors, and sector leaders working round the clock to assess company needs and to try to design financial instruments and technical assistance they might need to weather the crisis. As Sarah elaborated, “Everyone everywhere was hustling. And there was a real beauty in how this industry came together. The sense of community, we were all isolated, we were all scared. That's part of what makes this industry so resilient.” That was the start of the EARF.
3. Off-grid solar entrepreneurs are tenacious and resilient. Companies and their customers were going through significant uncertainty; facing stockouts, evaporating capital, and dwindling incomes, forced companies to adapt and change. They are confident in their products and services and agile and creative in the face of multiple and diverse challenges. The entrepreneurs are what make this sector resilient and worth supporting.
4. Decentralised renewables are a climate action solution. Off-grid solar is largely known for its social impacts - generating income, improving quality of life, building resilience in communities addressing poverty. But there is also a climate story to tell. Shifting the energy sector to a low-carbon pathway will mitigate emissions on a massive scale. At the same time, off-grid solar helps build resilience and strengthen adaptive capacity for people and communities that are most vulnerable to a changing climate.
‘Invest in the Sun’ is supported by GET.invest, a European programme supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria. Stay tuned for the next episode of 'Invest In the Sun' with Brian Cox of MFX Solutions and Per van Swaay of TCX Funds to talk about Managing Currency Risks.
Today, 760 million people, more than the entire population of Europe, still lack access to electricity and are using products such as kerosene and candles to light their homes. For a majority, off-grid solar solutions provide the fastest, most cost-effective, and impactful way to gain access to life-changing, clean, electricity.
Off-grid solar improves health, safety, and opportunity for families across the developing world. It is powering small enterprises, boosting agriculture, and lighting clinics and schools, all while reducing millions of tonnes of CO2e.
The off-grid sector not only unlocks a huge impact but also creates significant financial opportunities. Among 31 off-grid solar investors surveyed in September 2020, 75% anticipate maintaining or increasing their level of investment into off-grid solar as they are “optimistic about the performance and potential of the OGS sector” and “remain bullish around the impact”.
Yet, the financing that the sector receives still needs to at least triple to reach universal energy access.
So far, impact investors, DFIs, and governments have been key to reaching 300 million households. To achieve sustainable development goals though, we need coordinated action to boost investment and drive financial innovation We urge governments, investors, and the international community to work with us to support the off-grid industry and power recovery from the COVID pandemic.
Hosted by: Laura Fortes, Project Manager, Investor Engagement, GOGLA
Produced and Edited by: Aletta D'cruz, Communications Manager GOGLA