Industry Convenes at Global Conference in Dubai as 15 million Lighting Systems Reach over 66 million People Living Off-Grid
Dubai - UAE: 26 October 2015 - The 4th International Off-Grid Lighting Conference and Exhibition commenced today at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Organized under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of International Cooperation and Development, the four day event brings together over 450 delegates from around the world.
Since the first edition of the conference in Ghana in 2008, this biennial event has grown significantly, alongside the industry it supports. This year it helps to mark UNESCO's International Year of Light, and with the COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris weeks away, a focused debate around how to deliver modern clean energy for over 1.3 billion people without access to electricity has never been more critical.
At the opening press conference, key figures from the solar lighting and household electrification industry spoke on challenges facing the fast-growing sector. They were joined by Rt Hon Grant Shapps, UK Minister of State for International Development who introduced a new campaign, ‘Energy Africa', launched last week by the British government to develop the energy sector and bring about sustainable economic growth. ‘Energy Africa' will help Africa to achieve universal energy access by 2030. Currently, 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity access - 70 per cent of the population.
Russell Sturm, Global Head of Energy Access, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, noted: "The remarkable growth of this new industry shows the power of the private sector to achieve development impacts at scale. The World Bank Group played a key role in identifying this new market, working with the private sector to develop it, and is now enabling its scale-up as commercial investors come to the table."
Koen Peters, Executive Director, Global Off-Grid Lighting Association, said: "Initiatives such as the Energy Africa campaign and the support Minister Shapps has managed to secure from an impressive set of African leaders, shows how political momentum is gathering to make the universal energy access goal a reality. As we will hear in the next few days, big steps are also being made by the industry and investors. Clearly, the off-grid lighting and household electrification sector is moving into a new phase, and is now scaling up to deliver energy to hundreds of millions of people in the next few years."
Mr. Peters also highlighted the ‘Power for All' campaign which was launched in May 2015, an initiative lead by industry and civil society actors, supporting the same goal as DFID's public Energy Africa campaign. Power for All and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) have joined forces to advance the rapid uptake of distributed renewable energy in Africa to improve hundreds of millions of lives.
At the opening day of the main event, key findings of a joint World Bank Group-GOGLA Market Trends Report were delivered by the principle authors, Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Itamar Orlandi, Head of Applied Research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: "What we see is a sector that is growing up rapidly. We forecast that the off-grid solar lighting and household electrification sector will benefit close to a 100 million households by 2020 - equivalent to more than a third of currently unconnected households globally. Investors have taken note and pumped almost a quarter billion dollars into the industry in the past two years alone, with the emerging pay-as-you-go business models gaining particular traction. This capital will help the sector to both accelerate growth and provide much more than just lighting to its customers."
Day one of the conference addressed the areas in which GOGLA has developed ways in which the organization is helping the sector, discussions about the state and future directions of the off-grid solar lighting and services market, as well as an overview of the key conclusions from the market trends study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Market data collected jointly by the World Bank and GOGLA show that 15.1 million solar lighting and electrification products have been sold to date, reaching 66 million people, and saving them about USD 3 billion in avoided expenses, such as for kerosene lanterns.
Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus delivered a keynote address, via video link, in which he imparted his experience in Bangladesh, proving that social business models can deliver energy access to millions of households and inspiring conference delegates to replicate these lessons in other countries.
The end of day one of the conference marked the start of an accompanying exhibition featuring 40 international businesses which, over the next few days, will showcase products and services that are changing lives.