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  • ​​​​​​​Though the region has made notable improvement in its electrification rate over the past several years, South Asia still has nearly 400 million people without access to electricity and 1.1 billion people who lack access to clean cooking.
  • With funding from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program and the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program, the joint World Bank-International Finance Corporation Umbrella Initiative for Sustainable Energy Access in South Asia focused on developing approaches that encourage the participation of multiple stakeholders in project design and implementation.
Working towards Sustainable Energy Access for All in South Asia
From 2010 to 2012, according to the 2015 Global Tracking Framework, South Asia has made notable improvement in its electrification rate, outpacing its population increase by 54 million and increasing its electrification rate from 75 to 79 percent. However, the region still has nearly 400 million people without access to electricity and 1.1 billion people who lack access to clean cooking. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.3 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from exposure to smoke from traditional cook stoves and open fires. A significant ramping up of energy access efforts is therefore critical to achieving universal energy access in South Asia.
     
    With funding from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program (ASTAE), the joint World Bank-International Finance Corporation (IFC) Umbrella Initiative for Sustainable Energy Access in South Asia focused on developing approaches that encourage the participation of multiple stakeholders—public and private—in project design and implementation. The initiative has a two-fold objective of increasing access to electricity through clean mini-grid options across countries in South Asia and promoting universal clean cooking access in Nepal, where over 80 percent of the energy used is from traditional solid biomass fuels.
     
    Activities under the Umbrella Initiative (UI) included supporting the development of an energy access roadmap in Bangladesh and preparing a clean cooking investment prospectus in Nepal. The initiative also provided support for the development of projects and testing of innovative concepts in Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and the Maldives, with an emphasis on public-private partnerships.
     
    In Bangladesh, the World Bank team worked with the U.S. State Department, the leading development partner in the country’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, on developing an investment prospectus for universal energy access. The SE4ALL team coordinated with the government, other donors, Bangladesh’s Infrastructure Development Company Limited, and private entrepreneurs to provide a potential pipeline of energy projects seeking investors. Proposals under consideration included clean cooking projects, next generation solar home system upgrades, and an LED manufacturing facility, among others.
     
    Based on detailed inputs from Bangladesh, the World Bank, in collaboration with students from the University of Maryland, also developed a private sector-based financial model to explore approaches to scale up micro grids in rural areas, where access to electricity through the grid is either non-existent or of poor quality. The model focused on local entrepreneurship, linkages with live metering, pay-as-you-consume practices, and mobile payment facilitation. The Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) sustainable micro-grid task force is working on the next steps, including model modification for inclusion in a toolkit for pre-feasibility studies of micro-grids.
     
    In Nepal, about 45 percent of the population has access to on-grid electricity while 30 percent of the population that lives in remote areas has no access to electricity at all. UI supported scoping and guiding the Bank’s engagement in a mini-hydro initiative, which led to a study, “Scaling up Electricity Access through Mini and Micro Hydropower Applications – A strategic stock-taking and developing a future roadmap,” conducted with funding from ASTAE. The report was launched in Kathmandu at a joint workshop sponsored by the World Bank and Nepal’s Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) from September 28 to 30, 2015, followed by an online chat to exchange opinions with the general public.
     
    In the area of clean cooking, a government effort spanning over two to three decades has reached more than 1 million of Nepal’s 4.5 million households with clean cooking solutions through a subsidy-based approach focused on in-situ stove building by trained artisans. ESMAP funds, through its SE4ALL Technical Assistance Facility, were used to support the Government of Nepal’s national goal of achieving universal improved clean cook stove access by 2017. In keeping with SE4All goals, the UI team formulated the Developing Improved Solutions for Cooking (DISC) initiative, with a focus on pre-manufactured cook stoves and private sector approaches, in order to supplement government efforts and make clean cooking solutions more sustainable and less dependent on continued grant funding and subsidies from the government.
     
    The DISC team organized a workshop and exposure visit for 30 Nepali practitioners to the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, from September 30 to October 7, 2015, engaging in a comprehensive training agenda in the area of clean cooking technologies, standards, and deployment approaches, as a part of the exercise for the development of an investment prospectus for Nepal. DISC also supported Nepali practitioners’ participation in international forums in Ghana and Thailand. Under DISC, a mobile phone application providing market information and raising consumer awareness of clean cooking options is being developed as a behavior change tool.
     
    In the Maldives, the geographically dispersed islands rely on expensive imported diesel for power generation and are therefore vulnerable to price volatility. UI developed a model for large-scale solar deployments and a renewable energy program to replace diesel generation, which was adopted in the design of the Accelerating Sustainable Private Investment in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) concept. The ASPIRE project, funded by the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program in Low Income Countries and the World Bank’s International Development Association is now attracting private firms to develop rooftop solar projects through power purchase agreements.
     
    Processing of a $1 million, ESMAP-funded ASPIRE supplement project is underway, through the SIDS DOCK Support Program. The ESMAP project would focus on selected remote islands of the Maldives where approaches to increase solar PV penetration in small grids will be tested.
     
    “ESMAP and ASTAE funding is critical, since it allows us to experiment with innovative ideas to see what works and what does not,” says Sandeep Kohli, Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank and team leader of the Umbrella Initiative. “Given the similar energy challenges faced by many of the countries of South Asia, there is learning that can occur simply by following success and failure stories from the different countries and exposing practitioners to best practice.”