The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, and promotes the widespread adoption and use of all forms of renewable energy. In line with these aims, IRENA provides a wide range of products and services, including INRENA briefs. During the UN High-Level Political Forum in July 2018 (The United Nations High-level Political Forum is the central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals), IRENA released an IRENA brief Off-grid Renewable Energy Solutions, Global and Regional Status and Trends.
“Renewables are a central pillar of SDG 7 and represent one of the most effective and economicmeans available in the pursuit of universal energy access,” said Rabia Ferroukhi, Deputy-Director of Knowledge Policy and Finance at IRENA.
According to IRENA, off-grid renewables are emerging as a mainstream solution to the expansion of electricity services all over the world. Renewables effectively unlock substantial socio-economic benefits and contribute to multiple SDGs, especially the SDG 7 on universal access to clean, reliable and affordable energy. However, they are also understood as a key contributor to sustainable development generating jobs, stimulating growth, ensuring resource security and improving health. For instance, in Bangladesh, around 133 000 jobs have been created through a Solar Home System programme; an off-grid renewables initiative in Rwanda aims to generate 7 000 jobs.
IRENA has acknowledged that off-grid renewable energy had witnessed spectacular growth over the last decade. Especially rural communities have witnessed six-fold growth. Against the background of accelerated off-grid investments (global off-grid investments in 2017 reached USD 284 million), up to 133 million people are now receiving life-changing access to low-cost, secure renewable energy. Off-grid renewable energy solutions can provide electricity services for a wide range of end-uses, including for powering agriculture, telecommunication infrastructure, healthcare centres, schools, and rural enterprises.
IRENA’s brief reveals that Africa had emerged as a dynamic, fast-moving hub for off-grid renewables because off-grid solutions effectively broaden the reach of electricity beyond existing grid infrastructure. The continent’s off-grid industry now serves around 53 million people (up from just over two million in 2011).
“Off-grid renewable energy is an important contributor to energy access across the developing world having witnessed widespread, rapid growth in deployment over the last few years,” said Dr. Rabia Ferroukhi, Deputy Director of the Knowledge, Policy and Finance at IRENA.