Webinar Series: Developing Strong and Lasting Mini Grids in Rural Communities

In recent years, and with improvements in renewable energy generation, power electronics, and energy storage, mini grids have expanded as an attractive off-grid electrification option to reach rural and remote communities with reliable electricity service. 

Last month, NRECA International conducted and facilitated three webinars with energy sector experts from around the world. During this series, they shared global knowledge and practices on developing and operating mini grids as a viable option to bring lasting electric service to rural communities.  These webinars were part of the AmpUp initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development. 

​​​​This series was attended by attendees from around the world, and all had the opportunity to participate in a live Q&A session with the panelists, who offered diverse perspectives and knowledge on the topic. Each webinar featured different topics and themes:

Keeping the Lights On

Attendees learned from seasoned experts who shared their experiences (good and bad) on what it takes to operate a mini grid in remote areas, and delve into operational challenges faced by mini grid operators from rural Sub-Saharan Africa to remote areas in the U.S. The panelists were:

  • Tombo Banda, Managing Director, CrossBoundary
  • Frank Bergh, Sr. Electrical Engineer, NRECA International
  • John Kidenda, Chief of Utility Operations, PowerGen
  • Archip Logo, Co-Founder, Nuru

It Takes a Community 

Operating a successful mini grid involves support and buy-in from the community it serves. Attendees learned why this is crucial for the long-term success and sustainability of a mini-grid, and how to build and sustain community support. The panelists were:

  • Doreen Bwayla, Zambia Electric Co-op Development Program Manager, NRECA International
  • Clay Koplin, GM and CEO, Cordova Electric Co-op, Alaska, USA
  • Aaron Massaquoi, GM, Totota Electric Co-op, Liberia
  • Emily Varga, Sr. Co-op Development Advisor, USAID Cooperative Development Program
  • Dan Waddle, Sr. Vice President, NRECA International

 It’s a Business

Operating a successful mini grid in rural and remote areas of the world bring on different challenges. Experts shared their views on what it takes to successfully operate mini grids as a business, how to increase efficiency, reduce commercial losses, and the challenges of funding and sustaining mini grids. The panelists were:

  • Frank Bergh, Senior Electrical Engineer, NRECA International
  • James Knuckles, Sr. Energy Access Consultant, World Bank
  • Olamide Niyi-Afuye, CEO, Africa Minigrid Developers Association
  • Anita Otubu, Senior Director, Universal Energy Facility, SEforALL
  • Charles Matovu, GM, Kyegegwa Rural Electric Co-op Society, Uganda