Credit: By Solarfund CC BY-SA 3.0


The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) works to increase energy access, reduce poverty, and meet international climate change goals. As part of that effort, ESMAP identifies opportunities to accelerate rural electrification through remote mini-grid systems in Africa, Asia, and other developing areas.

In 2016 and 2017, the World Bank Group, one of ESMAP’s 17 development partners, asked CBI to help convene three Mini Grid Action Learning Events. Each five-day event brought together government officials, private sector developers, non-governmental organizations, donors, and energy technology and policy experts to address challenges that have made universal energy access a daunting goal.


The unique format provided opportunities to better understand the interventions needed for rapidly scaling up mini grid development. Invitation-only roundtables for country officials, the private sector, and Green Mini Grid pilot countries were combined with an open technical conference that attracted international attendance. Each event featured a forum focused on the host country’s particular challenges, including how to:

  • create workable regulations for a growing mini grid private sector;
  • create predictable and sustainable agreements with the federal government when the national grid arrives;
  • find a sustainable balance between affordable tariffs and subsidies; and
  • share innovative ways to create and support productive demand for electricity.


CBI worked with the development partners to identify topics, recruit speakers, design small working sessions, facilitate the plenary meetings, and draft the event outcomes. In Kenya, the event opened a frank dialogue about the viability of universal tariffs. That led to the creation of a mini grid developers association to help amplify the private sector’s voice. In Myanmar, the event highlighted the need for the government to provide minimum technical standards for mini grids. It also opened the door for investment and international expertise.

In December 2017, ESMAP held its third event in Nigeria, following the recent adoption of a regulatory framework for mini grids. The Nigeria Rural Electrification Agency pursued the event as an opportunity to move aggressively to jumpstart rural electrification, which had faltered in the past decade.