Africa Renewables: Mini-Grid Association Launches in Africa

AMDA-logo.pngThe Africa Mini-Grid Developers Association (AMDA) announced its official establishment. The trade association — currently numbering 11 companies, including innovative start-ups and established utilities — aims to combine private sector innovation, efficiency, and customer service with public sector support to help end energy poverty across Africa.

AMDA is the first trade association dedicated exclusively to the mini-grid industry, and is composed of developers operating AC mini-grids that ensure power reliability of at least 20 hours per day. The association also works closely with a variety of solution providers, including EPCs, hardware and software vendors and integrators.

The association currently has chapters in Kenya and Tanzania, where member companies have built 430 kilometers of transmission lines, and renewable generation to serve over 11,000 connections, including households, schools, health clinics, micro-enterprise and agriculture.

It is in the process of setting up its next chapter in Nigeria, which will include seven additional local developers, and has so far received interest from three other countries.

“AMDA’s vision is to see 100% of Africa electrified before 2030, and this will require utilities to incorporate new and innovative technologies, with mini-grids playing a central role,” said Jessica Stephens, AMDA’s Global Coordinator. “Mini-grids can deliver more connections per dollar, can be deployed more rapidly than traditional grid infrastructure and play an important role in stimulating local economic opportunities and creating jobs.”

By providing a unified voice for the industry, AMDA aims to partner with governments and utilities to build next generation grids based on the needs of both industry and communities. AMDA will share knowledge and feedback with policy-makers, regulators and investors, while also representing the voice of the customer, which is currently under-represented on the issue of energy access.

Near-term objectives of AMDA include:

  • Mobilize finance for mini-grids: working with donors, national governments and  other stakeholders to develop a smart Results Based Financing (RBF) fund to support  scale-up of mini-grids, as well as finding ways to unlock lower-cost debt capital;
  • Equalize public-private incentives : achieving a level playing field, both regulatory and financial, for mini-grids that is on par with other grid-based solutions;
  • Make Integrated planning the norm : establish national grid integration frameworks that are inclusive of mini-grids;
  • Better inform market support activities : highlighting useful areas for public interventions and providing market information to organizations funding R&D and innovation;
  • Unify and expand voice of the sector across Africa : grow the number of members to at least 25 developers across 7 countries by the end of 2018, with a longer-term goal of representing all private sector developers across the continent. The next chapter is expected in Nigeria, with the goal of adding Ethiopia and Uganda by the end of 2018.

AMDA is supported by the Shell Foundation, the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development (DfID).

“Mini-grids offer the quickest, most cost-effective way to bring 24-hour power to large parts of Africa, while other areas will be better served by standalone home systems or national grid extension,” said Richard Gomes, Director, Market Development at Shell Foundation.  “Unlocking public and private capital to accelerate the growth of this sector is therefore critical to meet the continent’s energy needs. We believe AMDA will help facilitate this by providing an aligned industry viewpoint, accurate market information and technical support for investors and policy-makers that is missing in today’s market.”

Sai d  Amadou Hott, the African Development Bank’s Vice-President for Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth: “Green mini-grids are an essential part of the bank’s New Deal for Energy, which envisions 75 million new connections coming from distributed energy solutions.  Through our various initiatives, including the Green Mini-Grid Market Development Program, the AfDB looks forward to working closely with AMDA to create the necessary conditions for scaling the sector, and energy access, across Africa.”

“Rural electrification is successful when the needs of remote communities are fully integrated into energy access solutions,” said Prosper Magali, Director, Projects and Business Development at Ensol. “The members of AMDA are committed to partnering with these communities to not only provide the safest, most reliable and highest quality service, but to ensure a low-carbon future that builds economic opportunity, resilience, and gender equity.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that mini-grids are a $190 billion investment opportunity between now and 2030, also noting that mini-grids and other distributed  renewable solutions are the least cost option for three-quarters of all new connections  needed in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 600 million people still lack basic electricity.

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