Sustainable energy sources for rural electrification in off-grid communities in South America: challenges and prospects

Lima (Peru).- Under this headline and the convening of both the Smart Villages initiative and the NGO Practical Action, from 24 to 26 January a forum has been held in Lima, with the presence of representatives from different organizations in the region to discuss various aspects of the off-grid rural electrification.

In Latin America, in despite of having a high rate of electrical coverage, there are about 33 million people without electricity access, and the majority of them has no expectation of get it through conventional power lines, due to the dispersion and difficulty-to-access of the homes. New service provision models and new actors are necessary to be present closer to the isolated rural communities. In this environment, the innovation and the entrepreneurship are critical elements to implement and extend the solutions.

The first day of the workshop, January 24, some energy projects were visited in near locations. Then, from 25th to 26th, more than thirty experts, who came from Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Peru representing public and private institutions and the academy, attended the presentations of the experiences of different organizations in the region, and discussed the difficulties and the agreements to get the objective of the universal access to electricity.

Part of those participants are members of the Latin-American Platform of Sustainable Energy and Equity (so-called PLESE) which fosters, as an aim, the interchange of knowledge and inspirational experiences, as well as the coordination among its members in order to achieve the universal access to energy.

The ACCIONA Microenergia foundation, member of PLESE as well as of the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), was one of the organizations invited to participate from the private initiative. The electricity service provision models of ACCIONA Microenergia Peru, in Cajamarca, and ACCIONA Microenergia Mexico, in Oaxaca, are two out of the few cases that are commonly recognized as successful that have been deployed in off-grid rural electrification in America, with implementation of sustainable models and with contribution to the Human Development.

One of the most common obstacles, identified within this problem, is how to get the base of the pyramid with a sustainable model and a reliable technology. The ACCIONA Microenergia’s experience showed that rural electrification, with Solar Home Systems, is possible in a sustainable and affordable way in this ‘last mile’.
ACCIONA Microenergia explained during its talk the obtained results in the executions in Peru and Mexico, as well as next interventions, but it highlighted especially both the management model, which implies a necessary multi-actor work, and the importance of considering community development components previously to the execution.

In this event, obstacles and challenges were identified, expectations were shared and the development of these regional conferences was revealed necessary as meeting points to provide new prospects.