Last Mile First: Maximizing the impacts of energy access across the SDGs

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Documentation of the partner working session "Last Mile First". 2nd May 4pm-5.30pm during the SEforALL conference 2018 in Lisbon organised by ACCESS coalition, CAFOD, IIED, ODI, SNV

This participatory session explores the market activation and provision of energy services for productive and community uses to enable resilient and inclusive local development. Using evidence from government, CSO and energy businesses on their approaches to integrated planning and delivery of energy solutions working in different contexts, it aims to identify best practices and opportunities as well as challenges for scaling-up last mile delivery, including: Better understanding end-user needs in service planning and delivery to ensure impact; Delivering and building higher levels of energy demand beyond household lighting; Integrating energy services in cross-sectoral planning at local and national levels.[1]
The Session will also aim to identify significant gaps in the enabling environment and other forms of support for last-mile energy delivery, and concrete ways to address them, in order to scale-up progress to reach SDG7 and maximize development impacts across other SDGs. What approaches to planning and service delivery are required to provide energy for community services such as health and education or for use in livelihoods activities for the last mile- extremely remote and vulnerable communities?

LastmileACCESS session SE4ALL Lisbon 2018.jpg


  • Many smaller NGO do not have the resources to do feasibility studies and assess the demand. Also, it should be insured to have in mind other sectors and the potential needs of people that they do not think of at the moment of starting a project.
  • IISD considers the most challenging aspect to be how to produce demand in rural areas. In Tanzania, they researched how mini-grids were provided. Potentials are high (agricultural processes). Usually with subsidies you get the mini-grids started, but without building the proper demand, leaves the installed mini-grid without a proper working solution to run in the long term. In a pilot project, agricultural companies would pay for the installation receiving targeted credits to buy equipment. This works much better than all the other efforts – the questions remains how to make sure to reinvent the wheel with every mini-grids provider.
  • Cooperation and coordination among all the political partners involved.
  • There will be always people not being able to afford energy services in a society, but if we are serious about reaching SDG7 we have to talk about affordability/subsidies. Even if tariffs are cost-covering there are other pitfalls. Subsidies need to be targeted tariffs. There are other options, e.g. voucher or free equipment, but they are not yet well understood.
  • Shel Foundation mentions a 4 billion USD gap to fill the affordability issues; and a lot more to reach SDG7! How do we build up RBF for mini-grids to create a similar subsidy level as for the national utility gets?
  • Demand challenges (three persons from the audience stated examples/questions)
    • Somalia: start with the farmers – let them try the solar project; teach them how to improve their profits through asset use (beekeeping) and live stock. Turn agricultural waste into biogas. Side business as a ice cream seller with a solar panel. That’s how they maximised the funding from farmers. Everyone has alternative funding options!
    • India: merging promoting tourism with energy access, eg. via impact expeditions into those remote villages. The Gov sets up the mini-grids; they only ask for small guarantee in a bank account and the community to run the mini-grids. After installation, education (e.g. scholarship) is also part of the loop.
    • Rwanda: sustainable energy for all: how do we respond to reach goal SDG7? SHS and micro-grids could be the focus; by involving private sector – how do you balance the tariffs between the off-grid prices and the grid connected households (usually lower)? If it is not an NGO running the mini-grid, would that work differently?
  • Gender aspects; Womens role are different in many sectors (including agriculture) and need to be addressed differentsly by stakeholders.
  • To gurantee that also smaller players are able to offer good and reliable maintainance and repair services.

Examples of businesses delivering energy services

  • In Kenya, the local authorities/counties comprise their plans with what they want to in terms of all energy related issues like agriculture (solar irrigation) and others. They came up with a framework for counties to make their planning, the Ministry of Energy will then put together a strategy plan for the country.
  • SNV worked in Simbabwe (EU funded); it started with a community mapping to identify the needs relating to water systems needs and business and financial models. The diversity of the needs asked for 4 different business models: from bottom up like solar kiosk to mini-grids to service larger amounts of households and schools and hospitals. 100kW solar mini-grid serves 3 villages in irrigation and 1 school and 1 hospital. Tariffs are linked to type of customers and number of total participants. Solar kiosks accompanied to serve the needs of all people.
  • CAFOD: Toolkit CAFOD IIED 2017.pdf Energy delivery tool kit includes a 6 step kit – a problem solving approach to look at many different aspects (community buy-in, supporting structure for delivery structure, social-cultural aspects in the integrative context, future demand potentials). Tip: If you invest in planning, you save money!

Learning and Success factors

  • Energy services might be even a very small part of an approach to get an improved education situations. You have to include more than the mere technology to make it work.
  • Access to energy is not the end, it's only the means to transformational change, ergo the use of those services. This is conceptualised in the GERES approach "Green Business Model" piloted in Mali.[2]
  • The Wuppertal Institute developed and played a “mini-grid game” in a village how much money do you have and where do you want to invest – you can only win if you include relevant stakeholders and follow a certain path.
  • Lessons learnt of the Energy Change Lab with HIVOS are: Target the demand! Start a dialogue at a national level!
  • We need an integrated approach to guarantee that people actually use the services provided. (including cooking, energy efficiency) Solar kiosks could be able to become solar centers and mini-grids; flexibility is very important! Enabling environment needs to ensure this flexibility.
  • It is important to include a range of ministries, to involve not only the households but also productive uses and social institutions. We need to make sure that we understanding the needs of the social enterprises and to be able to brindge the knowledge and trust gap to include finance and capital.

Concluding remarks included:

  • CAFOD: "We need again think about what is the role of DC in the last mile (needs-focused approach)!"
  • Gov of Kenya: "We need better cooperation among governmental agencies and private sector players!"
  • WI: "The sad thing is that people don’t read the lessons learnt."
  • SNV: "We need funding for the planning and long-term developing of the last mile sector and everybody needs to realize that this will take time!"
  • It's been a great session! Let's push for more inclusive& end-user focused planning,let's allocate resources for this,let's actively integrate gender, let's join hands with partners from other sectors& let's remember to READ the 'lessons learnt'![3]

Further Information