Funding small, clean energy utilities called mini-grids could be the most cost-effective way to relieve energy poverty. Sebastian Shehadi reports.

Mini-grids are cheap, decentralised, and community-based renewable energy devices that can bring electricity to millions of people currently living without access to basic power. Odyssey Energy Solutions, a platform connecting private mini-grid developers and investors, estimates that up to 200,000 mini-grids are needed to rescue the 1.1 billion people currently living in energy poverty, most of whom are in rural areas in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

“Mini-grids are still largely an afterthought for many governments and their financial backers in Africa and Asia," says an analysis by the International Energy Agency. "Evidence strongly suggests that this mindset must change if the world is to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 7: access to modern, affordable, clean and reliable energy for all by 2030."

US-based Odyssey recently announced that its pipeline had surpassed 550 projects, requiring a total estimated investment of more than $500m. The mini-grid projects on the Odyssey platform represent an expected 275,000 connections, with a generation capacity of about 150 MW of installed solar photovoltaic panels.

The 550 projects are being developed by 50 private sector utilities from 21 countries, including Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Project ticket sizes range from $40,000 to $3m, and Odyssey platform users currently comprise a network of more than 100 developers, investors, vendors and government institutions, with recent month-on-month user growth of between 30% and 40%.

“By using software and data analytics to streamline and standardise mini-grid project development and financing, we’re able to aggregate projects into bankable portfolios that meet investors’ ticket sizes and diligence requirements, paving the way for more capital to come into the sector,” said Odyssey co-founder and CEO Emily McAteer.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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