The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), globally, 992 million people live without electricity access, of which 95% live in Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa. The latest global renewable energy roadmap prepared by IRENA, illustrates that even though the power sector has seen a significant amount of decarbonisation, the progress of this energy transition should be accelerated, and the global energy system must undergo a profound transformation replacing conventional fossil fuels.
A major challenge for people living in rural and remote areas, distant from the electrical grid, is unstable and unreliable electricity supply. Many people living in such sites suffer from constant power outages and rely on conventional polluting diesel generators to supply electricity for common every day needs, such as lighting. For such locations, decentralised off-grid variable renewable energy (VRE) mini-grid systems represent a viable solution in providing reliable and sustainable electricity. Recent cost reductions in VRE technology, have made mini-grids for supplying energy access to off-grid rural areas and small islands, a realistic option.
IRENA is increasingly expanding its work to cover all energy transition pathways. A key pathway for the power sector transformation is that of transitioning from limited or no access to electricity areas, to full access, using renewables. The Power Sector Transformation (PST) team works with IRENA Members to develop renewable energy supply blueprints in off-grid settings, that looks at the optimal mix of technologies for a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply that improves livelihoods and revitalises rural community economies. The team performs techno-economic analysis of mini-grids in rural areas and develops renewable energy roadmaps for isolated power systems such as small islands.