1 topic, 2 key figures, 3 startups to draw inspiration from
- Remote areas where households lack access to electricity (40%): The State of the global mini-grid market Report of 2020 estimated that 238 million households could be connected to mini-grids in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and island nations by 2030. As a result, large corporations and startups are addressing this surging market. In Africa, ENGIE inaugurated its first PowerCorner mini-grid in Zambia in April 2019 and aims to develop 2,000 mini-grids by 2025. In Asia, India’s Tata Power has a similar project in its home country. Startups are also addressing this market. A great example is Nuru, a mini-grid owner and operator using solar-hybrid systems in DRC, in a country where the national electrification rate is only 7%.
- Remote commercial and industrial sites (16%): For off-grid and hybrid power plants, where connection to the national grid is more expensive, hybrid mini-grids can be installed. This is what eLUM does, providing solar-diesel solutions to factories and power plants, such as for a food processing factory in Ghana.
- Eco-district and city for better energy efficiency (10%): The city of Feldheim, Germany, owns and operates a local renewable mini-grid system consisting of solar, wind, and biomass power generation sources, as well as a battery storage system. It has managed to reduce the cost of electricity for residents by 30%.
- Plug-and-play energy management systems using artificial intelligence: Thanks to the developments in optimization model software, connection to the main grid can be efficiently done and AI can be used to forecast demand and energy generation from renewable sources, to accurately match supply with demand. For instance, research institutes CSIRO (Australia) and NREL (USA) are working together to simplify the integration of renewable mini-grid systems by creating a plug-and-play controller that can maximize the use of solar energy.
- Low-cost battery storage technology: Battery storage systems are crucial in balancing the variability of PV and wind and in shifting the electricity generated at times when supply exceeds demand, to times when demand exceeds supply. While historically renewable mini-grid systems have used lead-acid batteries due to their lower cost, technological advances and large-scale manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries now make them a competitive solution.
- Advanced metering infrastructure: Smart meters can enable remote monitoring of consumption and support the implementation of various pricing schemes, such as time-of-use tariffs. In the case of off-grid systems, renewable mini-grid operators can implement prepaid or pay-as-you-go models using mobile payment systems and smart meters – to remotely switch on and off customers’ electricity supply.
2 Key Figures
389 mini-grid startups
The mini-grid market expected to reach $30 Bn by 2025
3 startups to draw inspiration from
This week, we identified three startups that we can draw inspiration from: SolarKiosk, Kemiwatt, and SOLshare.
Kemiwatt is a French start-up that develops innovative redox flow battery technology for stationary energy storage. A typical application is the storage of renewable energy (solar, wind), either off-grid for micro grid, or mini-grid services (load-shifting, peak-shaving,…).
SOLshare is a Bangladi stat-up that is the developer of an electricity trading platform designed to manage local electricity for households and small businesses in densely populated off-grid villages. The company’s peer-to-peer platform enables users to monetize excess solar energy, and create a network by sharing electricity.