South American countries have made significant progress in energy access, but more than 30 million people (around 7% of the population) continue to live without electricity. While energy access levels are much higher than in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the communities remaining without electricity typically live in particularly remote locations, in the mountains or Amazonian forests. Their remoteness is linked to high levels of poverty, making electricity less affordable. Bringing electricity and cleaner, sustainable cooking technologies to these communities therefore represents a major challenge if universal energy access is to be achieved by 2030 as required by the Sustainable Development Goals.
From 24-26 January 2016, experts from across the region gathered to discuss this challenge and the opportunities to address it. The workshop on “Sustainable energy sources for rural electrification in off-grid communities in South America: Challenges and prospects” was co-hosted by Soluciones Prácticas (Practical Action) and the Smart Villages Initiative in Lima, Peru. It marked the beginning of the Smart Villages Initiative’s engagement in South America. The workshop focused broadly on the region’s common challenges as well as the unique requirements of each remote community that lacks energy access. The workshop report summarises the presentations and discussion: this brief distils key findings and messages for policymakers, development organisations, and other stakeholders.