Focus on solar energy

Taking advantage of natural energy resources

By Claire Marchand

This year, the Workshop for Industrializing Countries, taking place during the IEC General Meeting in New Delhi, India, focused on “Solar photovoltaic energy standards for developing countries”.

Geoff Stapelton and Arne Jacobson from IEC TC 82 Geoff Stapelton and Arne Jacobson from IEC TC 82

Not everyone has access to energy

Access to energy is something many of us take for granted. Hopping on a tram after work and switching on the lights when arriving home in the evening, taking fresh food out of the refrigerator, cooking dinner are things that we do every day without even thinking. They are part of our way of life.

But lights, refrigerators or ovens available 24 hours a day are a luxury for m.any in developing countries who have to face power outages on a daily basis, or have no electricity at all. The IEA (International Energy Agency) states that around 1,3 billion people live with no or very limited access to electricity.

On the other hand, sunshine is something many developing countries have in abundance and should take advantage of. A great number of projects – on- and off-grid – are put in place that use solar PV (photovoltaic) systems to provide energy even to remote areas that until then didn’t have access to electricity. Hence the topic of this year’s workshop.

Renewable energy experts share their experience

The workshop brought together 50 delegates in all. Of those, 24 came from 13 Affiliate countries – Afghanistan, Bhutan, Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Tanzania and Yemen and 26 from 12 IEC Member countries – Canada, China, India, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa and United Arab Emirates.

Affiliate Leader Phuntsho Wangdi delivered the welcome address before presenting Bhutan’s own experience with standardization activities, rural electrification and their plans for 10,000 MW of hydroelectric power by 2020 . He then gave the floor to the speakers invited for this session. They included Alex Mboa from the Kenyan NC (National Committee), Ruud Kempener from IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), and two experts from IEC TC (Technical Committee) 82: Solar photovoltaic energy systems, Arne Jacobson and Geoff Stapleton, both members of TC 82/JWG (Joint Working Group) 1, tasked with the preparation of guidelines for DRE (Decentralized Rural Electrification) projects being implemented in developing countries.

A rapt audience

Moderated by IEC Affiliate Executive Secretary Françoise Rauser, the session was followed with great attention by all in the audience, keen to learn about new developments in the solar energy field. The presentations elicited considerable interest as evidenced by the many questions and comments from Affiliates and Members.

Issues raised included the challenge of electrifying remote villages in Bhutan due to the rugged landscape and promoting rural electrification in general; the harmonization of standards; the application of tariffs to electricity import, and grid synchronization, to name but a few. IRENA’s commitment to help Africa double its share of renewable energy, made a particular impact on the audience.

Supporting rural electrification

PV systems offer many benefits for rural electrification. TC 82 has published 18 Technical Specifications in the IEC 62257 series that detail recommendations for small renewable energy and hybrid systems for rural electrification.

The World Bank and the United Nations Foundation have recognized the significance of the series. In 2013, together with the IEC, they announced a new cooperative agreement to provide developing countries with access to these important technical documents that support rural electrification, at a specially discounted price for qualified stakeholders.

On training and participation

Concluding the workshop, Rauser reminded delegates how important it is for them to use their right to comment on documents through the Affiliate Country Programme. She also called for delegates to use the Mentoring Programme, and for members to provide assistance.

Geoff Stapelton and Arne Jacobson from IEC TC 82 Geoff Stapelton and Arne Jacobson from IEC TC 82
Ruud Kempener (left) from IRENA, and Alex Mboa from the IEC NC of Kenya Ruud Kempener (left) from IRENA, and Alex Mboa from the IEC NC of Kenya
Sioma solar microgrid project in Zambia (Photo: Empowered By Light) Sioma solar microgrid project in Zambia (Photo: Empowered By Light)