Guest Articles

September 13

Benjamin Attia

In People and Dollars, Energy Access Is Growing by Billions: GTM’s Off-Grid Energy Access Forum Explores Why

Previously ignored off-grid populations are quickly becoming a fundamental piece of the energy transition puzzle. There are several reasons for this significant shift. As energy access markets evolve and scale, off-grid energy provision will have increasingly significant impacts on power demand, grid extension and modernization investments, the siting of new generation sources, and future carbon emissions reduction pathways. Off-grid energy technologies and business models are also, in many ways, on the cutting edge of low-cost solar technology, advanced metering and remote demand-side management, energy efficiency and other trends shaping advanced electricity markets.

As I discussed previously on NextBillion, 2018 was a banner year for energy access investing. According to new data from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, the sector saw deployments of over $511M USD equivalent across all types of corporate-level investment and relevant off-grid technologies, the highest annual total ever.


GTM off grid energy media conference

Credit: Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables


But 2019 is already on pace to surpass last year’s total, with over $304 million USD equivalent invested in the first half of the year alone, over 50% of which was equity.

And in recent weeks, deals such as Azuri’s $26 million cash infusion led by Marubeni, BBOXX’s $50 million Series D led by Mitsubishi and Engie’s acquisition of Mobisol have continued to demonstrate the crystal-clear value proposition in becoming a utility of the future to last-mile customers, who lack access to much more than energy.

Energy poverty has serious knock-on effects for economic growth, health and education outcomes and more. But the potential to evolve the utility business model again to go beyond source-to-sink electricity service provision with the next billion customers has the potential to upend these outcomes cost-effectively – and is highly attractive to strategic investors.

As the energy access sector and its complementary technology markets continue to mature and evolve, some key thematic trends and issues demand attention, which will be explored at Greentech Media’s Off Grid Energy Access Forum, taking place Oct. 2 in London:

  • A Focus on Sustainable Growth and Economic Viability: While the other industry events tend to limit to investment trends in the space, this event has a big emphasis on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) business models and the factors impacting long-term growth in the sector
  • Value Stacking: Strategically, off-grid energy access represents the opportunity to own the next billion customers, as nearly all off-grid households still lack access to far more than just electricity – from insurance to water or fast-moving consumer products
  • Expanding Beyond East Africa: East Africa is still the biggest market for the sector, and it will be covered prominently in the programme, but the sessions will also feature off-grid energy access players from Southeast Asia and Latin America
  • Customer Energy Management: While other conferences ignore the technology side of the story, this conference will cover perspectives on how software and data analytics can enhance results-based finance and demand management for minigrids

These themes will define the utility of the future business models that scale energy access solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. The event’s data-driven agenda will dive deep into key market, investment, and technology trends impacting the sector, and will bring together key stakeholders in this space, including: strategic investors, energy majors, key European utilities and IPPs, and other financial stakeholders, as well as leading solar home system and mini-grid installers.


Editor’s note: NextBillion is a media partner of this industry event. Register with GTM using our exclusive discount code NB15 for 15% off your conference registration.


Benjamin Attia is a research analyst at Wood Mackenzie’s Power & Renewables practice, where he leads the firm’s coverage of off-grid energy access.


Photo courtesy of Russell Watkins / DFID.




energy access, off-grid energy