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One billion people on the verge of an energy revolution /

2018 will be the commercial tipping point for solar energy.

Without fossil fuels or grid technology, we can empower a billion people.
New technology and a dramatic fall in costs make off-grid solar viable in the developing world.

Households in developing countries would immediately save up to 80% by switching to solar technology and energy storage technology from diesel and petrol.

To help launch this revolution, Crown Agents are calling on donors and investors to shift their approach to solar.

So far a preoccupation with upfront capital expenditure, and a failure to grasp the long-term return on investment from next-generation solar, have hampered the scaling of solar across the developing world.

But new technology has dramatically reduced costs. And this technology means off-grid solar systems can now deliver and store electricity consistently, allowing communities to be powered sustainably without depending on diesel generators.

The real cost of off-grid solar power (including battery storage) is now below 20 cents per kWh, compared to at least 60 cents per kWh of energy generated from small diesel and petrol generators. Households in developing countries would immediately save up to 80% by switching to solar technology and energy storage technology from diesel and petrol.

“This report shows that advances in technology have enabled solar energy to be cheaper and more reliable than ever before. Now we need governments, donors and the private sector to get behind solar in a bold way to reach the 1.1 billion people living without electricity today.”

Fergus Drake, Chief Executive of Crown Agents

Turns the lights on for the final billion people without power

There are as many people living without electricity today – approximately 1.1 billion people – as there were in the days of Thomas Edison’s first light bulb. This holds people back and weakens growth across some of the world’s poorest countries. And while centralised, grid-delivered power is expanding, it is unlikely that it will ever be able to close the energy gap.

At the moment diesel generators are the only option for keeping the lights on in communities across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. And they are hugely damaging to the environment, very inefficient and expensive to run.

But the situation is changing.

Smart technology changes the rules

The electric-vehicle market has recently sparked innovation in lithium-battery technology, and this technology is now being applied to solar energy. The new battery-storage technology means off-grid, solar power can now be stored locally and used 24 hours a day.

Crucially, new technology also means solar capacity can be monitored accurately, right down to device level. Up till now it has been difficult to monitor consumption accurately; this meant resources were not always allocated correctly, and the result was power shortages and waste.

Now, smart technology can monitor consumption accurately, which means that off-grid solar systems can be installed and maintained cost-efficiently and cost-effectively, however remote the location.

Time for funders to act

Crown Agents has already delivered more than 11 megawatts peak of solar generating capacity to support public-service delivery in emerging economies, and right now it is actively supporting new off-grid solar projects across Africa. But much more needs to be done.

The technology exists. The solar revolution can begin. It is now up to governments and donors across all sectors to finance this green, sustainable revolution. Their investment could finally empower over a billion people across the developing world.

Download our solar report below.