Energy Giants Form Low-Carbon Microgrid Group in Advance of UN Climate Talks

Sept. 5, 2015
Seven major energy companies joined forces in South Africa yesterday to drive low-carbon microgrid development in advance of United Nation climate talks scheduled for December.

Nighttime in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa, Wikimedia Commons

Seven major energy companies joined forces in South Africa yesterday to drive low-carbon microgrid development in advance of United Nation climate talks scheduled for December.

Formed September 4 in Johannesburg, the microgrid working group includes ABB, Alstom, EDF, Engie (previously GDF Suez), Eskom, First Solar and Schneider Electric. The companies will focus on developing action plans and firm policy recommendations to scale-up microgrid development.

“Microgrids can help provide access to electricity, contributing to social development and economic growth while enhancing the integration of renewable energy and lowering environmental impact,” said Leon Viljoen, ABB South Africa managing director. “A supportive regulatory framework can help to create the right investment climate and accelerate the deployment of microgrid technologies.”

The group maintains that low carbon microgrids are an essential solution in areas where customers receive no or erratic power from a central grid or rely on high-emission alternatives.

About 1.3 billion people — 18 percent of the world’s population — lack access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

About 97 percent of those without access to electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. Energy poverty is greatest in India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and Indonesia, according to the IEA.

IEA has found that population growth may be accelerating energy poverty. The number of people gaining access to electricity is not keeping pace with the number being born in some regions.

The microgrid group came together at a meeting of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a CEO-led organization that works to galvanize the global business community around sustainability issues.

The WBCSD’s Low Carbon Technology Partnership initiative, which includes the microgrid group, is testing plans to develop and deploy low-carbon technologies at a series of international roundtables. The roundtables are a preamble to COP21, the UN’s global climate negotiations, scheduled for Paris in December.

“As we transition to a lower carbon future, the availability and accessibility of all technological solutions is crucial. Microgrids will play an important role in the suite of technologies available to developing countries especially as the distributed and embedded generation market grows in South Africa,” said Mandy Rambharos, head of climate change and sustainable development for Eskom Holdings.

Do you know of other efforts to reduce energy poverty? Share them with our readers in the comments section below or on our LinkedIn Group, Community Microgrids and Local Energy.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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