70 Million People Gained Energy via Off-Grid Solar Despite COVID – New Report Shows

Amsterdam/Washington DC, 7 October 2022

A new report shows that the off-grid solar industry continues to grow, with 70 million more people having gained access to electricity through off-grid solar power since 2019. The Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2022: State of The Sector report published today by the World Bank’s Lighting Global, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), GOGLA, Efficiency for Access Coalition, and Open Capital Advisors shows that the off-grid solar industry remained resilient despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. Today, 490 million people are accessing energy through off-grid solar solutions, an 18% increase since 2019. 

However, 733 million people around the globe still do not have access to electricity.  The number of people projected to be without access to electricity by 2030 has grown by 10 million when compared to pre-COVID levels as the rise in access is not keeping pace with population growth, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. For 55% of these households, off-grid solar will be the least-cost solution to gain basic electricity access in the next five years, a  fundamental step in reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 of universal access to affordable and reliable energy. Growing application of off-grid solar power in the appliance market has also expanded the sector’s potential to benefit other development areas, such as health and food security.

 

KEY FINDINGS: 

The sector has proven more resilient than many expected when COVID-19 erupted, though some companies have struggled 

  • Investments into the industry continued to grow, reaching over $2.3 billion since 2012. However, the majority of finance went to 7 companies operating at scale, while those in their seed and start-up phase have found attracting financing more difficult.
  • Rural homes and businesses make up the clear majority of off-grid solar customers, but the pandemic has accelerated a trend for companies to additionally service the sizable urban and weak grid markets.

Off-grid solar products help achieve a faster and more just clean energy transition, building the adaptive capacity and resilience of climate-vulnerable people

  • Governments and development partners have recognized the potential of off-grid solutions to power agriculture, enterprise, and healthcare.
  • Solar water pumps (SWPs) and solar cooling, seen as ‘emerging’ technologies two years ago, have rapidly matured and are now classified as ‘near-to-market’ – and are already improving food production and storage.
  • Over 10.5 million businesses are using solar energy kits to increase their income and productivity, while the industry itself is supporting over 370,000 green jobs.

Solar energy kits remain the most cost-effective solution to electrify hundreds of millions of off-grid homes and businesses, but ability to pay is a continuing challenge

  • Pay-as-you-go (PAYGo), or other consumer financing, is key to enabling families to access solar energy kits and productive use appliances.
  • There is growing recognition that more public funding will be needed to reach remote and lower-income customers, and to bridge affordability gaps.
  • ‘PAYGo everything’ is here: The PAYGo technology that unlocked consumer financing for solar energy is now being leveraged on a variety of electronic devices, and to offer digital financial services.

Quotes and spokespeople

 

The latest edition of the Off-Grid Solar Market Trends report underscores that the off-grid solar sector continues to impact millions of homes, businesses and public institutions, providing access to modern energy services for those living with weak grid or no grid today. Off-grid solar technologies are recognized as essential tools in the fight to eliminate energy poverty and achieve a faster, more equitable clean energy transition. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging for off-grid solar companies, the industry has shown resilience. It is promising to see that sales and investments are increasing again, with 2022 set to be another record investment year.Patrick Tonui, Head of Policy and Regional Strategy, GOGLA

It’s gratifying to see the growth of solar-powered appliances. The coalition seeks to maximize their impact by leading efforts to improve their quality, affordability and availability. Devices like solar water pumps and refrigerators will be at the front line of delivering cheaper, more sustainable energy services for rural households, farmers, health facilities and communities and increasing their resilence to climate change.Makena Ireri, Clean Energy Access Research Lead, Efficiency for Access Coalition

IFC has long been a believer in the potential of the off-grid solar market to provide reliable, sustainable energy access for millions by building partnerships between companies, investors, governments and donors. Despite the challenges of COVID, the sector continues to mature, and the market opportunities are increasing for investors to help off-grid solar companies scale and meet the challenges of SDG7.Peter Cashion, Global Head Climate Finance, Financial Institutions Group, IFC

COVID-19 has further highlighted both the urgent need for off-grid solar energy solutions, and the viability of the sector. Even as the pandemic further widened the energy access gap projected for 2030 by thrusting tens of millions more into poverty, 70 million people gained energy access through off-grid solar devices during the same pandemic. Governments and the global community must scale up efforts and funding for these clean, reliable, lowest-cost solutions to support those who would otherwise be left behind. There is still time to achieve SDG7, but we must act now.Gabriela Azuela, Practice Manager, ESMAP Lighting Global

Over the last decade, we have observed first-hand the off-grid solar sector’s dramatic growth – from the earliest PAYGo business models to now attracting hundreds of millions of private capital and focusing on serving the hardest to reach customers. As this year’s Market Trends Report shows us, it’s critical to continue this great momentum and not step back. The world’s climate goals cannot be achieved if we don’t also support those otherwise left behind and off-grid solar presents an opportunity to do this.Andreas Zeller, Managing Partner, Open Capital

ABOUT THE OFF-GRID SOLAR MARKET TRENDS REPORT

The biennial flagship report for the off-grid solar sector takes an in-depth look at the state of the sector and at the trends guiding the industry. The 2022 edition is divided in two parts: the current State of the Sector report and the Future Outlook, which will be published at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo in Kigali, Rwanda (18th-20th October).

Read the full report.

Read the executive summary.

ABOUT GOGLA

GOGLA is the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry. We are proud to champion one of the world’s most innovative and impactful sectors. Hundreds of millions of people already benefit from affordable, high-quality, clean off-grid solar products and services.

With the right support, our pioneering industry will be able to scale up rapidly to improve the lives of 1 billion people by 2030. To help make this happen, we promote, safeguard, and convene the industry, advocating for enabling policies and increased investment as well as supporting our 200+ members with effective services.

ABOUT LIGHTING GLOBAL 

Lighting Global is the World Bank Group’s initiative to rapidly increase access to off-grid solar energy for the 733 million people living without electricity world-wide. Managed by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), we work with governments, the private sector, development partners, and end-users, continually innovating to unlock key market barriers and enable access and affordability to those that would otherwise be left behind. Our support has expanded to technologies that go far beyond lighting, including systems to power the needs of households, businesses, schools, and health centers. We operate with funding gratefully acknowledged from ESMAP and their donors.

ABOUT IFC

IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2021, IFC committed a record $31.5 billion to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity as economies grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ABOUT EFFICIENCY FOR ACCESS

Efficiency for Access is a global coalition promoting energy efficiency as a potent catalyst in clean

energy access efforts. Since its founding in 2015, Efficiency for Access has grown from a year-long

call to action and collaborative effort by Global LEAP and Sustainable Energy for All to a coalition of

20 donor organizations. Coalition programmes aim to scale up markets and reduce prices for superefficient, off- and weak-grid appropriate products, support technological innovation, and improve sector coordination. Current Efficiency for Access Coalition members lead 12 programmes and initiatives spanning three continents, 62 countries, and 34 key technologies.

ABOUT OPEN CAPITAL

Open Capital Advisors is a management consulting and financial advisory firm that drives growth, enables investment, and builds markets across Africa. We help businesses, investors, development partners, and the public sector to identify opportunities and deliver unique, impactful solutions. Our mission is to advance African economies and build future generations of business leaders. Since 2010, we have completed over 1000 engagements across 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and raised over $1billion in capital for impactful businesses across the continent. Our locally based team of over 150 full-time staff brings experience from the world’s top consultancies, private equity firms, investment banks, and development organizations.