A new trade body has been launched in two African countries with the aim of promoting the development of mini-grids across the continent.

The Africa Mini-Grid Developers Association (AMDA) currently has chapters in Kenya and Tanzania, and aims to spread across Africa.

For the coming year, the group’s priorities include achieving subsidy parity for mini-grids with the centralized grid, working for grid integration frameworks that include mini-grids, and mobilizing greater financial support for the sector.

Sam Slaughter, AMDA founding member and CEO of Kenyan microgrid developer PowerGen Renewable Energy, said in an interview with energy access advocacy group PowerforAll that it is time for Africa’s mini-grid sector to step up its capability to execute at scale, and AMDA’s goal is to give it the legitimacy to do so.

The value of mini-grids, Slaughter said, is their ability to “1. operate more efficiently than the incumbent public grids (make more impact with less money), 2. be a conduit for bringing innovation and technology to this market (like smart metering and distributed generation/storage), and 3. provide better customer service and help stimulate demand on our grids to maximize the impact of our assets”.

Slaughter said AMDA aims to build “the energy system of the future” in Africa. The group envisions a multidirectional grid featuring distributed generation and storage controlled by smart controls and meters, with the potential to allow consumers to trade energy using a transaction system such as blockchain.

This will result in “a grid of the 21st century, not the 20th”, Slaughter said.  

In a statement of principles, AMDA said the core issues for African mini-grid developers today include engaging with governments on technical and safety standards; forwarding policy measures that allow mini-grids in remote regions to keep operating alongside the centralized grid once a grid connection arrives in the region; ensuring a level playing field for tariffs; aligning permitting requirements with project size, and working toward subsidy parity.

AMDA’s website may be found here