An estimated 91% of the world’s population had access to electricity in 2020, marking substantial progress toward goals to ensure universal access to power. Still, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 733 million people remain unserved. Off-grid and decentralized energy systems may be emerging as an alternative to facilitate energy access and resilience, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where energy access rates are still markedly low.

The agency’s latest off-grid renewable energy statistics suggest the number of people using off-grid solar lights has increased dramatically from 15.4 million in 2012 to 112 million in 2021. “In Africa alone, the number of people benefitting from off-grid solar lights has reached 52.6 million in 2021,” it said. The statistics also suggest growth for off-grid hydropower and biogas for off-grid electricity. Source: IRENA (2022), Off-grid Renewable Energy Statistics 2022, International Renewable Energy Agency, Abu Dhabi.

A Closer Look at Off-Grid Solar

—Copy and artwork by Sonal Patel, a POWER senior associate editor, (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).