Off-grid renewable energy systems are expanding rapidly on the ground to service the needs of more than one billion people worldwide who lack access to electricity. Change is driven by declining costs and increasing performance for small hydro installations, solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines, as well improved technologies for electricity storage and control. However, exact data tracking the roll-out of such systems remains a scarce resource.
The International Energy Agency publish a working paper to gather as much accurate information as possible. Off-grid renewable energy systems: Status and methodological issues contains some fascinating insights, giving a real sense of the speed and scale of the changes in energy provision and well as some of the remaining barriers.
Key findings from the report are summarised below:
- Almost 26 million households or an estimated 100 million people are served through off-grid renewable energy systems. Of these, there are 20 million households using solar home systems, 5 million households on renewables-based mini-grids, and 0.8 million households owing small wind turbines.
- There is a large market to replace the 400 gigawatts (GW) of diesel generatin with renewable energy sources in off-grid systems. 50 to 250 GW of the total installed diesel capacity could be hybridised with renewables.
- There are a few thousand mini-grids in operation that are not connected to the main grid. Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Morocco and Mali are among those countries with more than 10 000 solar PV village mini-grids. India has a significant number of rice husk gasification mini-grids.
- More than 6 million solar home systems are in operation worldwide, of which 3 million are installed in Bangladesh. Moreover, nearly 0.8 million small wind turbines are installed.