- One in five globally—lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business.
- Mobile phone towers are a key component of telecom infrastructure and require constant and reliable energy supplies, making their operation in remote areas very expensive.
- The World Bank is working on a new initiative that intends to create a multi-stakeholder coalition of key players from the telecom, energy and financial sectors to develop innovative business models that harness the energy demand from the telecom sector to supply electricity in remote, rural areas.
February 5, 2012―Energy powers opportunity. Yet 1.3 billion people—one in five globally—lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business. Without access to modern energy, it is not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals - be it reducing poverty, improving women's and children's health, or broadening the reach of education. Well-irrigated farm can double crop yield, improving the ability of farmers to sustain their families and earn a living. A sewing machine and a light bulb to work from at night can increase productive hours and help generate extra income for a family.
Rural areas are where the most additional connections are needed to reach universal electricity access by 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia has 95% of its people without access to modern energy services and 84% are in rural areas. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 15 % of the rural population lives within 10 kilometers of a power substation, while as much as 41% lives in areas considered isolated or remote from the grid. This is an enormous challenge that requires looking beyond governments and towards other sectors for innovative solutions.
1.3 billion people without access to energy is one of the greatest challenges of our time and partnership is the new leadership in making this happen.Dr. David J. Jhirad, Professor and Director of the Energy, Resources and Environment Program at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University
Mobile phone towers are a key component of telecom infrastructure and require constant and reliable energy supplies, making their operation in remote areas very expensive. These towers are generally powered by diesel generators, making their operation in remote areas very expensive, while emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. There is interest to explore renewable energy supply options for these towers. This trend could potentially be harnessed to also make cleaner energy available to rural communities. Availability of electricity will help develop the local economy.
Innovative Uses for Telecom Towers
The Telecom industry has made major inroads into rural areas in developing countries and has had a transformational impact on rural communities, even when a majority of these communities do not have access to electricity. Between 2000 and 2010, access to mobile phone increased from zero to 53% in Sub-Saharan Africa and from negligible to 72% in India. This phenomenal growth in the mobile phone sector could provide valuable insights and new ideas for addressing the off-grid electrification challenge.
The World Bank Institute’s Climate Change practice, in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Energy Department of the World Bank is developing a new initiative to bring together the two sectors to identify, incubate and explore opportunities to support innovative business models that harness synergies between the telecom and energy sector to accelerate off-grid electrification.
This initiative intends to create a multi-stakeholder coalition of key players from the telecom, energy and financial sectors to develop innovative business models that harness the energy demand from the telecom sector to supply electricity in remote, rural areas. It will engage the private sector in accelerating off-grid electrification and contribute to the World Bank Group’s commitment in supporting the Universal Access to Energy goal of the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
Key Players Coming Together
A virtual roundtable meeting was held on November 13th 2012 bringing together 190participants from more than 30 countries - representing the mobile telecommunication sector, the energy sector, private foundations, non-governmental organizations, universities, private investors, national governments, think tanks, international institutions and multi-lateral funds.
“In the Energy sector, we have always looked at the telecom sector and the mobile revolution with a degree of envy, because it has been able to penetrate populations and communities which seemed impenetrable to us,” said Mr. S. Vijay Iyer, Director of the World Bank’s Energy Department. “This event is important as it represents the coming together of two sectors that have traditionally enjoyed a lot of synergies.”
The initiative is also supporting a market research study in Tanzania to identify innovative telecom-energy business models for private sector led off- grid electrification. This research being conducted in partnership with a private company, seeks to understand the demand for energy services, potential for market creation and expansion. It also seeks to identify appropriate business models that will allow for off- grid electrification of communities living in proximity to mobile telecom base station towers.
As part of the coalition building process the initiative has created an online community of practice, where participants need to be invited and will be a platform for e-discussions, guest blogs, information sharing and knowledge exchange.
"1.3 billion people without access to energy is one of the greatest challenges of our time and partnership is the new leadership in making this happen," says Dr. David J. Jhirad, Professor and Director of the Energy, Resources and Environment Program at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University and Founder of the Smart Power for Environmentally-Sound Economic Development (SPEED) Program of the Rockefeller Foundation.
The initiative will reach out to the various stakeholder groups through various media such as webinars, online platform, collaborations to capture past experience, share knowledge of various sources, including the Tanzania research and new ideas to identify private sector business models.
If you would like to learn more about the WBICC Telecom-Energy initiative, or become a participant in the virtual Community of Practice, please contact : Mr. YannTanvez, firstname.lastname@example.org.