Newsletter - March 2015
Towards Achieving Universal Energy Access by 2030

Richenda's Message

Dear Friends,

This month I joined a number of colleagues to visit briefly and see the work of one of our longstanding practitioner network members, Devergy, in Morogoro District in Tanzania. The villages they serve are about five hours drive from Dar es Salaam, beyond the reach of the national grid. Fabio De Pascale, the company's CEO, ably described in detail the way his company has installed and operates innovative solar DC micro-grids, now serving 800 customers across several villages in that region, using mobile payment technology. One particularly interesting feature of their system is its modular design - while starting predominantly with small scale lighting and charging capacity, the micro-grids can be scaled easily to meet evolving demand.

devergy combined 2 Devergy's 'skinny' microgrids lights up Tanzania's Morogoro district. Photos: Richenda Van Leeuwen/UN Foundation.

For all our members, to hear more about micro-grids and other exciting developments in the sector, a reminder that this year's second annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum is rapidly approaching from May 17-21 at the UN in New York. It presents a key opportunity to gather alongside government leaders, policy makers, private sector investors and entrepreneurs to focus on the three goals of Sustainable Energy for All, to chart progress to date, and refine the roadmap for our collective action moving forward. The Energy Access Practitioner Network will be engaged in several sessions and side events at the Forum, and we will share more details on our website as they are finalized. To register for the event, please visit


Warm Regards,
richenda sign 2

Richenda Van Leeuwen Executive Director, Energy Access,
United Nations Foundation.

Member Announcements


  • Off-Grid Electric to implement Tanzania's 'One million solar homes'.
    Off-Grid Electric will connect one million Tanzanian households with reliable solar electricity by 2017 under the "One Million Solar Homes" initiative announced recently by the Tanzanian government. Tanzania's announcement is a major contribution to President Obama's Power Africa initiative, which aims to double energy access in sub-Saharan Africa. Tanzania is one of the six focus countries under Power Africa. Read More.

  • SNV pilots Results Based Financing in Tanzania
    With only 14% of Tanzanians having access to electricity, innovative financing mechanisms are needed to spur last-mile distribution of clean energy solutions. SNV is piloting Results Based Financing (RBF) in the energy sector, aimed to overcome market failures constraining private sector-led delivery of modern energy services to isolated communities. The key feature of RBF is payment upon delivery, with the private sector expected to take the full risk until the moment of delivery of the contracted results. Read More.

  • Elephant Energy: Rural Namibia benefits through Pay-as-you-go Solar
    Greenlight Planet, in partnership with divi, Inc. and Elephant Energy, has released a PAYG Sun King Pro 2 that will enable customers to move beyond the entry-level lamp, while still leveraging innovative payment options. The divi-enabled Sun King Pro 2 has been introduced in Namibia via Elephant Energy's distribution network and is currently being sold throughout the most rural regions of the country. Similar to the Eco Easy Buy, this new lamp is an entry point for customers to explore the benefits of renewable energy, while providing distributors with increased access to real-time sales and distribution data. The divi-enabled Sun King Pro 2 has the added advantage of being able to charge cell phones and other small devices – thus creating a potential income-stream for customers. Read More.

  • Lighting up Khoiri
    Solar Universe India, in collaboration with the Skilled Samaritan Foundation and SunSaluter have successfully completed the second phase of providing solar power to Khoiri, a village located 45 km outside New Delhi. The village had been receiving erratic power supply from the state grid, with residents mostly relying on candles, batteries and kerosene lamps to light their homes. Each electrified household in Khoiri received two LED bulbs, a three speed DC Fan and a mobile charging kit to cover their basic energy needs.

  • DFID and ENERGIA knowledge partnership for impact of energy access on women and girls
    The International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) have signed an agreement to advance knowledge and awareness regarding the impact of energy access on women and girls. There will be five focus areas: electrification through grid and decentralized systems, productive uses of energy, the political economy of energy sector dynamics, energy sector reform, and the role of the private sector in scaling up energy access. The results of this study should contribute to more effective policy and project interventions related to energy access, as well as to women's empowerment and gender equity.

  • A pioneering partnership for gender inclusive growth in West Africa
    In an innovative effort to remove barriers to energy access for women in West Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have embarked on a joint project to put in place policy and implementation measures to enable greater participation of women in energy interventions in West Africa.

    In recognition of the need to leverage energy infrastructure for greater gender equality and inclusive growth in the region, the project will aim to put in place a regional policy and implementation strategy that will augment the region's existing energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.

    Following an inception workshop held in Cote d'Ivoire in February, the project will seek champions to highlight the significance of gender inclusive energy access policies in the region and conduct extensive stakeholder consultations with a special focus on women and youth. The project is expected to be validated at the Ministerial level in June 2015.

  • UGE International harnesses wind at the Eiffel Tower
    In partnership with the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), UGE International has installed two VisionAIR5 vertical axis wind turbines on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France as part of a high-profile renovation and upgrade to the monument. Located above the second level, the turbines will produce over 10,000kWh of electricity a year, offsetting the annual consumption of all commercial activity on the Eiffel Tower's first floor. The two UGE VisionAIR5 vertical axis wind turbines were specially painted to match the iconic tower, and are located 400 feet above ground level to maximize energy production. Mounting the turbines at this location was in itself a technical challenge, requiring each component to be hoisted individually and suspended with rope above the tower's second level. The latest information on UGE's sustainability work is available here.

  • Solaris celebrates its entrepreneurs
    Solaris' new website celebrates all the entrepreneurs who have started a solar charging business with Solaris since the pilot launch in November 2014.

  • GRID Alternatives and SunEdison expand partnership
    GRID Alternatives and SunEdison announced a major expansion of their partnership through an initiative that will help connect the growing solar jobs market with communities that need good jobs. The RISE - Realizing an Inclusive Solar Economy initiative will train more than 4,000 people over the next two years in skills they need to enter the solar workforce, and give employers easy access to this pool of trained workers.

  • SunEdison unveils Outdoor Microstation
    SunEdison has developed the Outdoor Microstation, a stand-alone power generation unit that provides renewable and reliable electricity for a variety of off-grid applications.

  • IRENA's concessional loans to add 35 MW across 5 renewable energy projects
    The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund For Development (ADFD) Project Facility have released USD 57 million in concessional loans for five renewable energy projects in developing countries. The selected projects are:

    - 4MW mini-hydro station in Argentina;

    - 10 MW solar energy plant in Cuba;

    - 5MW geothermal facility producing electricity and heat in Iran;

    - 1 MW hybrid solar and hydropower project in Mauritania; and

    - 10-15 MW geothermal project in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

    These projects will have a combined total capacity of up to 35 MW and will bring reliable and sustainable power to more than 280,000 inhabitants of rural communities.

  • Little Sun in 11 African countries
    Little Sun is available in 11 African countries; most recently it began working in Zambia with Best Foot Forward Ltd and in Burkina Faso with BETA Sarl to deliver Little Sun solar lights. In partnership with VELUX, Little Sun has also assembled an internationally acclaimed jury for the Natural Light – International Design Competition, which is challenging design students worldwide to create a new solar lamp. To enter: #NaturalLight

Featured Member

SPARKMETER: The Spark of Innovation

In parallel with distributing solar lanterns as part of disaster relief in Haiti through the non-profit EarthSpark International, founder Daniel Schnitzer and his team responded to the enormous energy challenge that Haitians face – currently over 70 per cent of the country has no access to electricity - by also developing a model for town-sized solar micro-grids. Starting the micro-grid project in 2011, the EarthSpark team decided early on that a pre-paid metering system would be the best fit for the low household incomes found throughout rural Haiti.

SparkMeter haiti install 2SparkMeter opens new possibilities to the micro-grid operator. (Above) An installation of SparkMeter on the EarthSpark microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, which is serving 420 households.
Photo: EarthSpark International

While exploring existing pre-paid metering solutions on the market that could be purchased and installed on EarthSpark's Haitian micro-grid project, a few things became evident. First, there were very few companies that were selling pre-paid metering solutions. Second, very few companies that offered pre-paid metering solutions were interested in working with the smaller systems that EarthSpark was designing. And third, where available, the price-point of an individual meter was very high, with added costs for components and installation. By way of example, "there was a pre-paid card vending unit, a set-up fee and also a maintenance fee that would be charged, with total fixed costs amounting to over $20,000," explains Dan. That simply "destroys the economics of the system when you only have a few hundred customers on your micro-grid. Essentially, existing pre-paid metering systems were designed for larger scale central grid installations where thousands of customers are being served and not designed to be scaled down to the level of a micro-grid. There was simply no pre-paid metering system tailored to micro-grids," he added.

This gap in pre-paid metering solutions for micro-grids coupled with the need for innovative demand side management in relation to EarthSpark's Haiti micro-grid project led Dan and his team to develop a new smart meter system to monitor consumption and control household loads. Based on sensor network research at Carnegie Mellon University, SparkMeter was designed to monitor energy use in real time to help prevent electricity theft, limit over-consumption that can trigger voltage sag and blackouts, and help small-scale electric utilities like EarthSpark recover their costs better.

While SparkMeter was born out of EarthSpark's micro-grid work in Haiti, the young company is poised for global growth with an initial customer base in India and Tanzania. "In the United States we incentivize energy efficiency to end users in order to reduce the amount of emissions from fossil fuel generators and promote cost-savings, and we incentivize demand response to reduce peak loads and preserve reliability. You really need smart meters in order to do very controllable demand-side management beyond these rudimentary concepts. SparkMeter offers utilities the ability to tailor demand-side management tools to their unique contexts at a price point lower than either conventional pre-paid meters or smart meters," says Dan.

The SparkMeter technology functions as an enabler for businesses that serve underserved markets that need access to electricity in a few ways:

1. It eliminates the need for the micro-grid or central grid utilities serving low-income customers to use a labor force to manually monitor and manage systems – especially for billing and payment – saving labor costs.

2. Efficient demand side management enables grid and micro-grid utilities to maintain a stable and reliable system by controlling load to avoid overloading the system.

3. It enables pre-payment so households are charged based on their individual use, rather than a fixed, flat monthly tariff which is the norm for many village-level micro-grid systems.

"Conventional metering and billing is a barrier to expanding access to electricity because steep labor costs associated with meter reading, billing, and payment collection are greater than the revenues earned in low-income, underserved markets," Dan explains. For many village level micro-grids, tariff collection is manually done by someone in the village and when a household defaults, it often becomes difficult to recoup the money owed, or alternatively disconnect the household. SparkMeter helps automate the process, making it more accurate and easier to manage tariff collection.

As a platform, SparkMeter's innovative software will soon allow a micro-grid operator to integrate data from a remote monitoring system into SparkMeter's software to take automated control actions. This opens up a world of possibilities to micro-grid operators. For example, if the state of charge of the batteries on a solar microgrid is low, then the software can ratchet down customer load or energy limits to conserve energy. If output for a generator or inverter is close to its maximum capacity the software can adjust customer meter load limits to so the total load doesn't exceed the capacity of the generator. In either case, certain loads – like commercial customers with refrigeration – can be prioritized. At the same time, the operator can be sure to provide a minimum "lifeline" level of power so that all customers can at least have access to lighting.

SparkMeter already has customers in Tanzania, Haiti and India and hopes to continue piloting in 2015 with significant scale-ups planned for 2016.

To learn more about SparkMeter, contact Daniel Schnitzer at

Funding Opportunities

Closing Soon: Transnational SOLAR-ERA.NET Call for Proposal

The SOLAR-ERA.NET is a European network of research and technology development and innovation programs in the field of solar electricity generation. In this third transnational call for proposals, they will support innovative industrially relevant projects; 17 countries and regions participate in these calls with an overall funding budget of €12m. The deadline for submitting pre-proposals is March 27, 2015, 17:00 CET.

Closing Soon: WISIONS 2015 call for proposals

WISIONS initiative is calling for projects that aim to implement, standardize or disseminate innovative and sustainable pico- or micro-hydro power (P/MHP) solutions to meet local energy needs in South and South East Asia. Between 3 and 6 technical projects will be selected for support. The deadline for the submission of applications is March 31, 2015, 16:00 GMT. For more information on the open call, application process and criteria, please visit the following links: 


Closing Soon: Powering the Future We Want $1 million grant

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) has launched a $1 million grant to advance implementation in energy for sustainable development, encourage scientific and technological innovations in energy, and foster leadership initiatives that improve access to modern energy services, increase efficient use of energy and enhance availability of new and renewable energy and advanced energy technologies, while addressing economic, social and environmental sustainability. Applications can be submitted by March 31, 2015.


Closing Soon: 2015 SEED Awards for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development

This is an annual awards scheme designed to find the most promising, innovative and locally-led social and environmental enterprises with a focus on developing and emerging economies. This year SEED will make available up to 31 SEED Awards, including tools, capacity building, profiling, network building, and financing. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2015, 23:59 CET.


Energy Catalyst Round 2 remains open for early-stage awards

The Energy Catalyst has been established by Innovate UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department of Energy and Climate Change to accelerate innovation in the energy sector. £14m is available for the 2nd round to innovative businesses and researchers from any sector who can address the 3 major challenges facing the energy sector: reducing emissions, improving security of supply, and reducing cost. The deadline for registration for early-stage awards is noon on April 22, 2015.



The theme of this year's Forum is "Financing Sustainable Energy for All"; sees the launch of a new Global Sustainable Energy for All Commitment Platform and the first ever Global Energy Ministerial Dialogue. To register, visit:
Sustainable Energy For All Investor Forum
April 30 - May 1, 2015, Kathmandu, Nepal
The Government of Nepal through the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) and the Asian Development Bank's Energy for All Partnership is organizing a two-day workshop and investor forum on April 30 and May 1, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The theme is Renewable Energy (RE) Financing. The event is a regional Sustainable Energy for All forum.

Amstad Global's Project Finance In Renewable Energy 2015

April 16-17, 2015, Vienna-Austria.

Solar & Off-Grid Renewables West Africa
April 21-22, 2015 Accra, Ghana.

MES2015: Micro Perspectives for Decentralized Energy Supply
April 23-25, 2015 Bangalore – India

North India Solar Summit
April 24-26, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Monthly News Clips

Developing countries are taking small yet definitive steps to reduce subsidies and implement taxes on fossil fuels, with Ghana being the latest to have taken a decision in the same direction.

Power to the Poor: Provide Energy to Fight Poverty - Foreign Affairs
Imagine life without electricity. With no lights, electric stove, or water pump, you must travel miles to fetch water and firewood, running a particular risk of attack if you are a girl or a woman.

DC Power for the Off-Grid Market - Sun Connect
In remote and rural areas, where there is no power to be wasted and no or unreliable grid access, DC powered solutions present a great, still untapped, market potential.

New Energy Access Reports

Lifting the Darkness on the Price of Light: Assessing the Effect of Fuel Subsidies in the Off-Grid Lighting MarketUNEP
This report synthesizes and analyzes existing information on energy subsidies and off-grid lighting in the ECOWAS countries, arguing that energy subsidies can impede the entry of energy efficient technologies.

Battery Storage for Renewables: Market Status and Technology Outlook, IRENA
The report provides an overview of battery storage technologies and applications for integrating renewables into the power grid, with examples from islands, off-grid solar photovoltaics (PV) as well as grids with variable shares of renewable energy.

Results-Based Aid in The Energy Sector: An Analytical GuideWorld Bank
The report considers whether and how to use results-based aid (RBA) to support development objectives in the energy sector.

The Business Case for Off Grid Energy in India,The Climate Group
This report sets out to boost entrepreneurial activity and private sector investment in renewable off-grid energy by assessing the market, identifying business models with the greatest potential to achieve scale, and recommending investments that will be catalytic for the sector.

Biomass Energy Sector Planning Guide, EUEI PDF & GIZ

With the aim to improve the governing structures in biomass energy and ensuring its sustainable use, the Guide provides a step-by-step approach in developing the strategy, involving stakeholders in energy, forestry, land rights, environment, rural development and agriculture, as well as cross-sector themes of gender, health and education.

New Practitioner Network Members

The Practitioner Network now has over 2,000 members. Welcome to the following: