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Accessible energy for rural communities without electricity

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Rural electrification projet of ISOFOTON in Morocco

By José Jaime de Domingo, Director, International Cooperation, ISOFOTON

ISOFOTON contributed to the elaboration of the Renewables Global Status Report 2013, recently published by REN 21

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Renewables Global Status Report (the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century), bringing to the table my experience and Isofoton’s background in rural electrification for more than 30 years in 60 countries around the world.

I do think that rural electrification has significantly changed in the last years: Rural use of renewable electricity has increased with greater affordability, improved knowledge about local renewable resources, and more sophisticated technology applications. Improved technology is reducing prices of renewable energy through rural electrification so that electricity is increasingly affordable.

Moreover, the development of mini grids is also generating an understandable interest because they not only ensure the supply of electricity but mean that the systems and jobs generated are increasingly self-sustainable.

According to the report, renewable energy is key to achieving progress in bringing electricity to rural communities that do not have access to the electricity grid, enabling them to improve their living conditions and expectations. Therefore, multilateral and international institutions such as the World Bank and the European Commission have helped instil and promote the idea of renewable sources of energy as an indispensable means for rural development.

The idea has entered the political agenda in countries such as Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Peru, etc., where governments have begun ambitious plans to implement these rural electrification systems through renewable energy.

In addition, the last two decades have seen increasing private sector involvement in deployment of renewable in remote and rural areas, spurred by new business models and increasing recognition that low-income customers can offer fast-growing markets.

Rural electrification as a catalyst of progress

Extreme poverty is concentrated mainly in the rural world of the least developed countries.

The greatest problem faced in the rural world is isolation. The lack of connectivity of infrastructures and the absence of services increases the perception of isolation and political and administrative distancing from centres of power; in other words, it leads to the feeling of “not belonging” to the society that aims to include them.

Exit from poverty is conditioned on the level of access to opportunities, education, health, justice, infrastructures, energy, etc., under the umbrella of good governance. Access to these rights stimulates entrepreneurship and generates income.

There is a universal consensus that access to energy is essential for human development, the eradication of poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Goals.

Today one cannot imagine a decent life without the use of modern forms of energy. Electricity is a key element for welfare and the development of peoples, as it means that they can work efficiently, compete under equal conditions in the market and access information via the Internet.

The use of sources of renewable energy by systems isolated from the main grid, whether through individual systems or mini grids, provides operative and real solutions for supplying electricity to isolated rural areas. The choice of most appropriate technology is closely linked to specific local conditions, but there are grounds for considering that photovoltaic energy provides the best performance, both because the solar resource exists across the whole planet, and because of the technological progress that has been made, which allows electrical energy to be supplied at competitive prices.


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Working to capture the increasing potential of the Japanese solar market

By Javier Mestres, Executive Director  ISOFOTON Japan LLC

Over the last few weeks, leading international media that cover the photovoltaic industry have reported the increasing potential of the Japanese solar market, backed up by stunning figures.

Accohinomaru flag Japanrding to the IHS iSupply consultancy, a total of 1.5 GW in PV capacity was installed in Japan during the first quarter of 2013, up from 0.4 GW in the same period last year. As a result of this 270% increase, the Japanese solar market will overtake the German market as the world’s largest PV market in terms of revenue in 2013. Although China is still expected to be the largest market in 2013 in terms of newly installed PV capacity, the high prices of PV in Japan will drive Japan to become the world’s largest market in terms of revenue. If overall installed PV systems are about to grow by 4%, Japanese installed capacity will grow by 82% compared to the same period of 2012, reaching 20 billion $USD.

With the new feed-in-tariff implemented last year, the Japanese renewable energy market has been attracting increased attention from across the globe. ISOFOTÓN established a Japanese subsidiary in March 2012 in order to respond to the rapidly expanding market. According to EPIA, the Japanese market will reach 2,500 MW in solar installations by the end of 2013 and Japan will become the world’s third largest solar market, with more than 1.8 trillion yen in investment (14.8 billion Euros.)

PV EXPO Japan 2013: A platform to present our expertise and know- how

During the PV Expo 2013 held in Tokyo in February 2013, ISOFOTÓN was able to connect with many international developers. The event is part of the World Smart Energy Week, and was the second event focused on photovoltaic energy since the feed-in-tariff went into effect. Attendance grew substantially this year with 1,890 exhibitors and more than 125,000 visitors from 65 countries, and it was a lively and useful business platform. At a time when many European countries have cut back support for renewable technologies, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has made strong efforts to increase the use of renewable power generation and reduce dependence on atomic energy. Before the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011, atomic plants provided about 30 percent of Japan’s power.

Japanese banks have started to lend to foreign renewable power plant developers when they saw their commitment to produce locally and develop synergies and alliances with local partners. ISOFOTON is a clear example of this, as the company has already took part in its first megasolar project in Japan. We partnered with five other companies to jointly invest in installing a 1.25MW PV plant in Ube Techno Park that was completed earlier this year. We see this as just the beginning of the enormous potential for ISOFOTON’s solar solutions in Japan and we continue to position ourselves for growth in the market. PV industry is especially supported by government as Development Bank of Japan Inc. (owned by the Japanese Government) is currently facilitating low- interest loans to solar developers that will borrow residential rooftop surfaces to install small-sized PV systems.

Briefly, Japan is a country that has everything to attract not only investor`s interest but PV industry`s attention.