Mini-grids could help electrify the world
Mini-grids are enjoying a high level of attention because of their promise to bring electricity to the 1,3 billion people who don’t have it and increase the reliability of electrical energy generation. Today, many mini-grids still use diesel generators, but renewable mini-grids or hybrids may be the way forward – most of which are still in the pilot phase.
The IEC is at the core of the whole energy chain. Its work enables all forms of energy generation and transmission. The Commission is a key partner for accessible, safe, interoperable electrical energy infrastructure and as a global technology partner can significantly contribute to the broad roll-out of new energy technologies, including mini and micro-grids.
IEC TC (Technical Committee) 8 has set forth a new plan to work on the creation of guidelines for the general planning and design of micro-grids. (For more information please see IEC shares vision with energy leaders in the June 2013 e-tech.)
Vreeswijk actively participated in a discussion on mini-grid development. The roundtable allowed practitioners and policymakers to cooperatively identify the obstacles to further scaling up mini-grids and Smart Grids and look at potential solutions to addressing barriers as a key component to achieving universal energy access.
Key challenges identified
Principal problems that have been pointed out with regard to mini-grids relate to their operation and maintenance, control and grid connection as well as the lack of policies to support them.
The IEC can contribute significantly to solving technical mini-grid challenges and stimulate their roll-out. IEC International Standards facilitate the design, installation, control and maintenance of renewable and hybrid mini-grids and can also support policy decisions. These Standards can be further improved when policymakers, regulators, investors, insurance companies, equipment manufacturers and installers actively participate in their development.
Active participation in SE4ALL
CEM4, the fourth Clean Energy Ministerial, is a part of the UN’s (United Nations) focus on energy. In 2011, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, made sustainable energy one of his five priorities by launching the SE4ALL (Sustainable Energy for All) initiative. By 2030, the UN has set a goal of universal energy access for all countries, with a clear emphasis on efficiency, energy safety and sustainability.
Governments and private entities need to urgently address broad energy access for a growing population. Failing to do so will result in increased energy poverty that will hinder health, education and economic development for millions, if not billions of people.
Lighting the way
The ability to work and study after dark is often the first step towards a better, more prosperous life. Today up to 10% of average household income in Africa is spent on dirty kerosene lamps that give off limited light, with emissions that endanger the health of children and adults alike.
While solar lanterns have been available for some time now, standardization allows them to be produced in larger quantities, at less cost and of more consistent quality. The new publication announced at CEM4, IEC/TS 62257-9-5 for stand-alone lighting kits for rural electrification, will allow this industry to grow, providing testing laboratories with a means to test and compare light output and other quality measures that will ultimately reassure consumers and enable a broad technology roll-out.
CEM4 looks for answers
CEM4 is one of the few regular meetings that bring together energy ministers, industries, academics and non-governmental organizations to discuss clean energy. Public-private roundtables addressed topics such as: solar PV; reducing soft costs; clean vehicle adoption; power markets in emerging economies; renewables policy and finance; energy management systems; and mini-grid development.