News June 20, 2024

Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia Wins Ashden Award for Innovative Finance


The Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia, a Sweden-funded programme that has brought clean, off-grid energy to over 600,000 people, has won the 2019 Ashden Award in the category of “Innovative Finance”.

“We are honoured to receive this award not only as REEEP, but also on behalf of the Zambian and the Swedish people,” said Sabera Khan, Senior Liaison for Beyond the Grid Fund, based in Lusaka, Zambia.  The programme, she said, is “well on its way to connecting more than one million Zambians to clean and affordable energy.”

“This international recognition and the success stories and lessons learnt from Zambia will support us as we expand the BGF approach to other African countries,” said Khan. The Ashden Awards will be officially presented during a ceremony in London on 3 July.

“We are delighted with this recognition for the Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia, for our partnership with the Swedish Government and REEEP, and our work with a host of other partners through the Off-Grid Task Force,” responded Arnold Simwaba, Acting Permanent Secretary at the Zambian Ministry of Energy. “Together we are building an enabling environment for the private sector to use new technologies and provide cost-effective solutions with great impact. The Beyond the Grid Fund has demonstrated how a well-designed financing mechanism can be truly transformative, and this Ashden Award will help us show that to the world.”

“For BGFZ to be recognised as an ‘international trailblazer’ in sustainable energy is incredibly encouraging. We hope this award will bring new partnerships and opportunities to take the programme even further,” said Anders Arvidson, Project Lead for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) Power Africa Initiative. “We have proved that small-scale energy solutions can generate large-scale effects.”

The Power Africa: Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ) was launched in 2016 by the Swedish Embassy in Lusaka and REEEP, with the aim to expand access to clean off-grid energy in rural and peri-urban areas in Zambia. The programme supports four companies through an innovative results-based financing mechanism, and works closely with the government in its efforts to build a thriving market for off-grid energy services.

Mr Stephen Mwansa, Permanent Secretary for Administration in the Office of the Vice President in Zambia, stated: “We are very happy to be associated with the oversight role that the Vice President’s Office has played in this regard, facilitating the achievements of the Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia. This has enabled private sector companies to work effectively with Government and other partners to launch a thriving market for off-grid clean energy services in our country. In line with the Economic Diversification and Job creation agenda under the Seventh National Development Plan 2017-2021, more than 600,000 Zambians are already benefiting from this market resulting in job creation, preservation of forests due to lower use of charcoal and improved lifestyles being enjoyed by beneficiary families.”

In a country where some 70% of the population does not have access to modern energy services, BGFZ has kick-started a market for affordable, reliable and renewable energy services provided by the private sector. Though the original goal was to connect one million people by 2021, the four contracted companies are on track to reach 1.6 million by the programme end date.

“These numbers really prove that development can happen while addressing climate change,” said Magdalena Svensson, of the Swedish Embassy in Lusaka.

Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb hailed BGFZ for its success in incentivising companies to move into underserved parts of Zambia. “The Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia deploys finance in a strategic way to increase access to clean energy rapidly, at scale. The principle of ‘leave no-one behind’ is at its very core, incentivising companies to reach the most marginalised communities, with high quality energy services and long-term maintenance. What’s not to like? We hope they can inspire others to follow their pioneering steps.”

The four companies supported by the programme, Emerging Cooking Solutions, Fenix Intl, Standard Microgrid and VITALITE Zambia, provide services ranging from small, entry-level solar home systems that can power lights and a phone charger to mini-grid-connections, which offer similar service to the national grid. All products deployed by the companies meet minimum quality standards, and all companies offer a three-year warranty.

BGFZ has also been working with the Zambian government, private sector representatives and development partners to improve market ecosystem conditions through a combination of capacity building and technical assistance, stakeholder outreach and market intelligence development. This work has been formalised as the Off-Grid Energy Task Force, embedded in and led by the Ministry of Energy. Since its launch in April 2018, the Task Force has met four times and already, among other activities, has facilitated a VAT exemption for LED lights, the drafting of a new national mini-grid policy and has initiated discussions to improve the affordability of off-grid energy solutions.

In addition, the programme collects unrivalled off-grid market intelligence through its Energy Data and Intelligence System for Off-grid Networks, or EDISON for short. This system gathers information on new connections, warranty events, repayment rates and the programme’s climate

Ms Maria van Veldhuizen
+43 1 26026 3643  

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