A successful Renewable Energy Learning Conference

December 20, 2012

It’s been three intensive and productive days sharing experiences and learning with our partners in South Asia. With the support of Statkraft, Renewable World brought together a range of energy access practitioners and representatives from development organisations in Kathmandu from 10th – 12th December. After everything from debates to technical presentations, we finished our first Learning Conference looking towards a positive future in South Asia, shaped by dynamic partners, innovative solutions for energy access and a regional alliance of renewable energy actors.

The first day was spent with the currently local partners whilst the second and third days saw a larger group of delegates participate and a wide range of topics covered. It was great to see the interest in the conference both locally and from further afield. We were delighted to welcome speakers from across South Asia as well as East Africa and Europe.
We gained valuable insight into the different technologies being implemented in South Asia, from the effective and electricity-free Hydraulic Ram Pump for water pumping implemented by CRT in Muralibhanjyang, to the solar powered Multi-Use Water System implemented by iDE-N in six hill communities in Western District.
I could not miss the opportunity to see how some of these technologies work firsthand. Thanks to Dinesh and Lumin from CRT-Nepal for showing us their amazing workshop – a kind of incubator for innovation in rural technologies.  We saw how Hydram works, their achievements on improved water mills and progress designing a prototype of a pico-hydro turbine attached to a car dynamo to generate electricity from the water output of the Hydram. This is a fantastic concept – two-in-one water pumping and provision of electricity, and all built locally.

Left: Lumin Shrestha of CRT-Nepal explaining the Hydraulic Ram Pump concept to Tamjid Ur Rahman of ChangeMaker – Bangladesh during our visit to CRT´s workshop. Right: Charles Muchunku, Chairman of the Kenya Renewable Energy Association, talks on East African Markets and facilitating energy for the poor. 

I was pleased to present and lead a discussion around micro-grids. Not only are these valuable tools to provide electricity access at village level but also as a fundamental piece of bottom-up strategies for rural electrification. This is especially true for countries like Nepal where the extension of the national grid to rural areas is still ‘under construction’. Presentations are now available on the Learning Conference Page.

But despite my personal passion for technology, most of the time this is just a small part of each project. Moving through the concepts of provision, impact and local empowerment, we discussed business models and the key factors to ensure sustainability and replication of projects, i.e., how to support the transition from piloting to commercially viable roll-out.

One main consensus was on the need to involve the private sector in creating sustainable energy markets to achieve universal energy access by 2030. Not a new concept but great to have it endorsed by these partners in this forum. There was also agreement that there is no definitive solution as to how we tackle this challenge: markets should be shaped by a combination of renewable energy resources, technology, business models, financial mechanisms and policies. Despite this necessity for markets, there are substantial areas in which they cannot function, or in which they fail fail. A significant role for organisations like Renewable World remains – to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable communities who stand to benefit most are not excluded from the opportunities of energy access.
As a way forward, we agreed to investigate the development of an alliance of renewable energy stakeholders in Nepal that would facilitate the on-going sharing of learning and voicing of ideas needs to decision and policy makers.  We are delighted that Renewable World partner iDE-N committed to organising the first alliance meeting next year.
I would like to take this chance to thank all delegates, speakers and partners for their participation and valuable contributions, including iDE Nepal, Centre for Rural Technology Nepal, Biogas Sector Partnership Nepal, Management Innovation and Technology Solutions, Wind Power Nepal, ChangeMaker Bangladesh, Gonoshasthaya Kendra and particularly our colleagues in Nepal, Nick Virr and Lata Shrestha.
Presentations are now available here.