On September 29, 2016, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), with the support of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) initiative the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Standards Program (CESP), held the "Solar Mini-Grids Workshop: Regulatory Framework and Quality Assurance" in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop provided an opportunity for the 85 attending rural electrification experts to share expertise regarding solar mini-grids in Kenya and East Africa.
ANSI collaborated with the Kenya Rural Electrification Authority (REA), Power Africa, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a number of U.S. and Kenyan experts to organize the workshop. Speakers from the African Development Bank, the U.S. Department of Energy, Kenya's Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Kenya Power and Lighting, MRIGlobal, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Power Africa, PowerGen, REA, Renewvia, and Trama TechnicoAmbiental addressed three key topics pertaining to the solar mini-grid space: pricing and billing, quality assurance, and grid integration. Presentations from the workshop can be found on the CESP website: www.standardsportal.org/us-africacesp.
Background: The Kenyan Solar Mini-Grid Market
Over 40 percent of the world's poor live in villages that are too far from the national grid to be feasibly reached via grid extension in the near term. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where a majority of the population is expected to remain rural for the foreseeable future. Off-grid renewable energy applications are a practical alternative for these rural communities. Renewable energy-based mini-grids are less dependent on large-scale infrastructure and are able to be placed in service in a more expedient and economic manner.
Kenya is attempting to increase electrical access to rural citizens by creating an environment that is conducive to renewable energy investment. The energy sector is Kenya is among the most active in Africa. In 2015 alone, Kenya received $4 billion in renewable energy investments, the second most in Africa. Kenya is also in the process of developing standards and regulations for off-grid electricity that are expected to serve as a model the East African region.
As investment in off-grid energies expand, the policy environment becomes a critical factor for solar mini-grid implementers and suppliers. Stakeholder engagement in the policy-making process and the establishment of clear rules for the off-grid sector by African governments will be critical to ensuring U.S. companies are included in the market. Policy conducive to private utility providers will also help to facilitate quality, off-grid energy access throughout Africa.
ANSI and the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Standards Program (CESP)
The Nairobi event was the second of four workshops to be coordinated by ANSI under the U.S.-Africa CESP in its initial phase. The two remaining workshops are likely to focus on energy storage and smart grid solutions.
The CESP provides a platform for industry and government representatives from the U.S. and SSA to cooperate on standardization issues relevant to clean energy technologies, and build the relationships necessary for further technical exchange. The project also supports Power Africa's objectives, including connecting more of the African population to the electrical grid.
Organizations interested in co-sponsoring a CESP workshop are invited to complete the commercial benefit questionnaire here for review and approval by ANSI and USTDA.
For more information on the U.S.-Africa CESP and the "Solar Mini-Grids Workshop: Regulatory Framework and Quality Assurance," including access to the presentations, agenda, and flyer, please visit www.standardsportal.org/us-africacesp.
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