Achieving SDG 7 – from commitments to action

The last week of June 2019 brought together organisations and agencies active in enabling sustainable energy access from across the globe in the city of Amsterdam. Weaved around two major events, the Global Off Grid Lighting Association’s Annual General Meeting (GOGLA AGM) and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) charrettes, organisations such as Lighting Global, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and Efficiency for Access Coalition also organised events and workshops in the city to discuss approaches to solving the energy access challenge. Our team was invited to take part in several of these events and we thought we would share some insights we gathered from them.

SEforAll’s People Centred Accelerator group assembled on 20 June, 2019 to discuss project progress and plans until Sustainable Energy for All Forum 2020

What cannot be measured, cannot be improved

At the GOGLA AGM, the Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities team had participated in a session focused on the value of data and evidence in the off-grid solar industry. Our Senior Insights Manager, Akanksha Sharma, gave a presentation about our data and insights processes and shared best practices for these in this sector, particularly from the perspective of an industry association representing the interests of their members.

Having supported over 20 organisations in the energy space with grant funding through the M4D Utilities Innovation Fund, we have seen many of our grantees use customer insights to make effective and timely business decisions. We presented upcoming research on ‘Measuring the Impact of Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) services on mobile operators’. In this research, we are collecting data-backed evidence to demonstrate the commercial value of these partnerships between PAYG utilities providers and mobile operators by comparing customer behaviour on metrics including revenue generation, user activity and mobile money usage. Our Senior Insights Manager, Nicolas Snel, travelled across five markets in West Africa and spoke to dozens of mobile network operators and PAYG utilities providers to understand the main opportunities and challenges facing PAYG in the region (you can read more in our blog, West Africa: Has the growth potential been tapped for pay-as-you-go utilities?.

We also participated in a panel discussion, where representatives from Zola Electric, Solaris Off-grid and Gaia Impact Fund emphasised that they are actively collecting and analysing customer data to ensure timely payment collections and to help customers manage their credit more effectively. The panel discussed the value of sharing this data anonymously (and on an aggregated basis to ensure customer privacy), to help the off-grid organisations learn from each other and help the industry grow at a faster pace.

Data session at GOGLA AGM. Courtesy: GOGLA

So, it is important to standardise industry KPIs

But with data, the devil is in the details and so collecting and analysing data at an industry level calls for ‘Standardised Key Performance Indicators’ (KPIs) as a first step. Led by Lighting Global with the support of GOGLA and CGAP, the PAYGo PERFORM initiative is looking to solve this for the PAYG solar industry by developing a reporting framework and setting key performance indicators. The group organised a workshop inviting PAYG solar providers and investors to discuss the progress of this KPI framework.

For a small industry that has begun to see scale, standardising the key KPIs is important for the current and potential investors to see the impact as well as help the service providers better assess their businesses. That said, this process can be very complex and metrics, particularly those dealing with portfolio health, analysing customer behaviour and managing risk, can be hard to standardise given the different business models of PAYG companies. This workshop was an opportunity for the investors and service providers to openly, under Chatham house rules, discuss their hopes and concerns regarding this potential standardisation. A summary of the progress can be found here and was presented in a webinar organised by CGAP on 10 July 2019.

GOGLA Board Announcement and PAYGo Perform Workshop Courtesy: GOGLA

It is equally important to act on the insights

SDG 7 cannot be achieved through a single approach. It needs to be approached iteratively and with top-down initiatives as well as bottom-up actions to solve the challenge holistically and effectively. This was the theme of this year’s SEForAll Charrettes where Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, started by saying, “We can’t keep on having the same conversation amongst the same people asking the same questions and expecting something transformative to happen.”

The charrettes focused on four main themes:

  • data and evidence;
  • bridging the gap between supply and demand of energy financing;
  • reaching the last mile; and
  • approaches to create a sustainable, investable, private sector-led market for fuels for clean cooking.

The workshops were organised in an un-conventional way using design-thinking principles to look at the problem with a different viewpoint. Some of the themes that emerged at the end of the three-day workshop were the need for developing collaborative platforms, which bring different stakeholders together to prevent ‘re-invention of the wheel’, and the need for bigger and targeted funding to achieve scale quickly.

SEforAll will be publishing the results from these workshops in the coming weeks in a report that will highlight the disruptive solutions and next steps for taking those forward.

We would like to end this blog by thanking GOGLA and SEforAll for inviting us to participate in these events.

Ms. Rachel Kyte presenting at Partner’s Day – Sustainable Energy for All Charrettes

The GSMA Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities programme is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), USAID as part of its commitment to Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge for Development and supported by the GSMA and its members.

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