This is the second in a series of three briefs, Keys to Achieving Universal Energy Access. These studies are based on interviews and desk research, as well as two workshops held by WRI and the DOEN Foundation in March 2012 and November 2013.

By leveraging the experiences of socially oriented energy enterprises, civil society groups, and investors focused on energy access in developing countries, these publications use the collective knowledge of these stakeholders to help accelerate the scale-up of distributed renewable energy services in developing countries.

Executive Summary

Several ambitious international initiatives that aim to deliver access to clean, modern energy services to underserved populations in developing countries have recently taken root, including the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the Energy+ Partnership, and Power Africa. The scale of the challenge is great: today, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity, yet extending the electrical grid is not a cost-effective solution in many rural, low-income areas. The International Energy Agency estimates that to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, more than 50 percent of new electricity connections will be through distributed energy solutions, and more than 90 percent of those will use renewable energy sources. To meet the scale of the challenge, policy and regulation will need to be designed in ways that recognize the potential of distributed renewable energy to contribute to energy access goals, especially given recent technological and business model innovations of enterprises delivering these solutions. International initiatives investing in clean energy access can work with national governments and local actors to inform policy and regulation that supports distributed renewable energy enterprises.

This Issue Brief collects the perspectives of some of these enterprises on policy and regulatory barriers and opportunities to scaling up clean energy access, and synthesizes these perspectives into two recommendations:

  1. create and support platforms for enterprises—and other stakeholders—to have their voices heard in energy policy and regulatory decision making, and

  2. support targeted regulatory reforms and policy interventions focused on the financial sector to help unlock domestic capital.