Digitalisation & solar in emerging markets

DIGITAL SOLAR ENABLING ACCESS TO ENERGY IN OFF-GRID AND UNRELIABLE GRID CONTEXTS

Around one billion people – mostly concentrated in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa – still live without access to electricity, and for hundreds of millions more, the electricity is simply unreliable or too expensive.8 The systemic lack of access to sustainable, secure and affordable electricity is deterring social and economic development in emerging economies,9 and leaving economic opportunities untapped.The number of people gaining access to electricity has been steadily increasing over the last years, but efforts need to greatly accelerate if the world is to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 7 and ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. One way to ensure access to electricity for all is by extending the grid in places where the grid does not exist or where the grid is simply too weak and unreliable. However, extending grid-based electricity has important hurdles including connecting to an already weak transmission and distribution grid, insufficient power generation capacity to meet the electricity demand, high costs of extending the electricity network to remote areas, or simply a lack of affordability to pay for the electricity.

Solar-based mini-grids
Off-grid electrification includes the deployment of minigrids. A mini-grid (a very small version of which is called microgrid) is a network of small-scale electricity generators, and possibly energy storage systems, that supplies electricity to a localised group of customers. Mini-grids are small networks that can be independent (autonomous) of a nearby grid or can be connected to the main grid.

Demand forecasting and Demand Side Management in off-grid contexts
Forecasting of power demand plays an essential role in the electric industry, as it provides the basis for making decisions in power system planning and operation, both for utility-scale and off-grid solutions. In rural and remote areas in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, forecasting demand is especially challenging because new customers often lack historical data about their electricity consumption.

Operation & Maintenance in remote areas
Operation and maintenance (O&M) of solar PV systems in remote areas – often off-grid systems and mini-grids – come with various challenges due to several factors. First, off-grid projects are sometimes funded through various grants, only covering the installation costs but
not long-term O&M. Second, rural populations who are beneficiaries of off-grid installations can in many situations not afford O&M costs, especially when it comes to replacing spare parts and components. Third, the necessary technical skills to execute quality O&M services are not always available in rural areas where off-grid PV systems and microgrids are located.

Pay-as-you-go for solar
The off-grid solar sector has been at the forefront of leveraging technological innovation and digital solutions to reach as many customers as possible. A new and increasingly common digital solar business model in frontier markets is pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) solar. Digital innovation has created a sweet spot – delivering excellent products and services for customers, enabling low-cost operations for companies, and protecting assets and revenue streams for investors.

DIGITALISATION & GRID-CONNECTED SOLAR IN EMERGING MARKETS

Grid-connected solar PV is now being deployed in many regions of the world, in some more
competitively than other. Companies active in these regions include a mix of new local entrants, global players from European or other mature market developers, or semi autonomous subsidiaries of global players. In any case, best practices tested in more mature solar markets such as Europe are being imported, adapted, or even replaced by more suitable
techniques, depending on past experiences in comparable climates, grids, and design requirements.

Smart data analytics and machine
learning to improve asset performance Asset operators and owners need to manage more sites demonstrating diverse characteristics and needs, with limited personnel and budget. Managing portfolios reaching 1 GW or more in size is a challenge in any circumstance – even more so when the portfolio is fast increasing and the team is relatively new.

Digital asset management
With the professionalization and globalisation of solar investors and investment portfolios, service quality expectations are changing and rising rapidly, which puts increasing requirements on asset managers – both in mature and emerging markets. As opposed to operation and maintenance (O&M) service providers, who take care of the solar power plant on a technical level, asset managers deal with the commercial and financial management of a
solar investment. They manage a company – or a portfolio of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) – rather than a power plant, often across different geographies, with different regulatory and environmental challenges and with a variety of different business models. Asset managers cover topics such as accounting and financial reporting, cash-flow management, debt management, insurance management, Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) management, SPV
representation, O&M contractor supervision, land leasing and any other statutory or regulatory obligations arising from the operation of solar power plants.

TRADITIONAL LINEAR ASSET MANAGEMENT APPROACH AND ASSET-CENTRIC INFORMATION-BASED
APPROACH WITH THE THREE MAIN STAKEHOLDERS OF ASSET MANAGEMENT

Grid intelligent solar
Through intelligent plant controls paired with solutionoriented plant sizing/layout, solar can be used to create cost-effective flexible capacity that supports supply and demand balancing. This is increasingly interesting in markets with less stable or saturated grid infrastructure.

THREE GRID PHASES OF SOLAR POWER PLANT EVOLUTION – BASIC SOLAR, GRID FLEXIBLE
SOLAR, FIRM DISPATCHABLE SOLAR

Blockchain-based solutions to digitalise,decentralise and decarbonise electric grids worldwide
Multinational corporations provide a growing source of demand for new renewable energy projects across the globe. Corporate buyers, however, face significant challenges finding and procuring renewable energy from (preferably new) projects. These challenges are amplified in emerging markets, where buyers also lack trust in the credibility of available options.

Source:SOLAR POWER EUROPE

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