Utilities, DRE companies should end prolonged silo operations – Power for All’s Skierka

Utilities and private sector decentralized renewable energy (DRE) companies should aim to end a prolonged practice of undertaking their operations in silos, instead of working collaboratively to achieve universal access to electricity, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Power for All, Kristina Skierka, has suggested.

Skierka, stated at the unveiling of a vision for utility of the future in low energy access countries by a coalition of energy sector leaders that stakeholders must recognise they have a shared goal of ending energy poverty quickly and affordably.

“For too long utilities and private sector decentralized renewable energy companies have worked in silos,” said Skierka, in a statement from Power for All on the launch of the initiative at the African Utility Week in Cape Town, South Africa.

She further stated: “We need to find a path toward universal electricity access that brings the solution providers together and leverages their strengths, while recognizing our shared goal of ending energy poverty as quickly, affordably and sustainably as possible.”

The statement explained that the new vision aims to integrate the public and private sectors, as well as centralized and decentralized solutions as the utility of the future that will provide affordable, reliable and clean power for all.

According to the statement, the coalition also launched the first real-world project to uncover and implement the required business-model innovation, bringing together Uganda’s largest utility Umeme and several leading distributed renewable companies to demonstrate the potential for integrated energy in the East African country and beyond.

As coordinator of the initiative, Power for All, said it published a new report, ‘Utilities 2.0: Integrated Energy for Optimal Impact’, which examines the opportunities, challenges and best practices of creating the utility of the future in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing economies in Asia.

It explained that parts of the recommendations of the report included the need to have national integrated energy planning to ensure the optimal mix of service levels to un-electrified areas; establishment of policies and regulations that provide the certainty necessary to encourage public-private partnership; as well as creation of a level playing field that gives equitable incentives to grid, mini-grid and household-level solutions.

The statement also quoted Selestino Babungi, Umeme Managing Director, to have said that: “As the largest electricity distributor in Uganda, Umeme recognizes the challenges of accelerating electricity access through grid extension.”

Babungi, explained that: “We believe in creating innovative solutions that are scalable, affordable and can quickly be deployed to address the urgent need to end energy poverty. The Utilities 2.0 partnership provides us an opportunity to pilot and learn, with a view of future rollout to drive household access from the current 25 per cent to 60 per cent by 2027, as envisaged in the second National Development Plan.”

It stated that besides Umeme, the Utilities 2.0 project in Uganda also involves several private sector companies and other leading organisations, adding that the Africa Mini-Grid Developers Association (AMDA); CdLASP; CrossBoundary; East African Power; EnerGrow; Equatorial Power; Fenix International; Nithio; NXT Grid; PowerGen Renewable Energy; Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI); Smart Power India (SPI); University of Massachusetts Amherst; and ZOLA Electric were part of this.