Renewable energy-based mini-grids: The UNIDO experience


Mark DRAECK, Emese KOTTÁSZ (Rural and Renewable Energy Division UNIDO)



Main Geographic Focus: 



Cote d Ivoire

RE&EE Category Taxonomy: 

  • Mini-Grid Systems

File Tag: 

  • Project info
  • Key statistics
  • Awareness
  • Technical Research


Despite the considerable potential for an accelerated use of renewable energy-based mini-grids, opportunities for income generation and social and environmental benefits, progress continues to be hampered by a number of key barriers and bottlenecks. Many countries still lack sufficient technical capacities to install, operate and maintain the systems, the regulatory framework to attract project developers, and access to financing to bring sufficient scale. UNIDO’s access to energy projects aim to address these issues, yet the evidence suggests that there is no unique
business model that can easily and universally be replicated and scaled-up. This report will take stock of the current experience, and will draw interim conclusions on the lessons learnt, and provide guiding recommendations for designing energy access projects.

UNIDO showcases eight projects, two in Asia and six in Africa, to analyse the benefits of renewable energy as a tool for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development (ISID) through building renewable energy-based mini-grids for productive uses in rural communities. The case studies are taken from UNIDO’s technical cooperation project portfolio, and include:

  • Chad,
  • Côted’Ivoire,
  • Guinea-Bissau,
  • India,
  • Sri Lanka,
  • Tanzania,
  • The Gambia, and
  • Zambia

The report presents the technical, regulatory, financial and business approach as well as end-user and community involvement for each case study. The projects are assessed for their ability to meet five criteria which are deemed critical for the long-term success of mini-grids. These criteria are (i) sufficient revenue to support the mini-grid; (ii) the willingness and ability of consumers to pay bills; (iii) community participation; (iv) capacity of national regulator/ utility / renewable energy agency to support and promote off-grid projects; and (v) local manufacturing capacity.

The interim conclusions should be interpreted as being a snapshot, as many of the cases have only recently been installed. The interim conclusions will be revisited in the next 12 to 18 months.

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