Nearly 115 million people worldwide currently rely on basic energy services provided by solar lights, while another 25 million obtain a higher level of renewable energy services through solar home systems or connection to a solar mini-grid, the International Renewable Energy Agency said Sunday.
In an article posted on its official website, IRENA said, in addition to solar power, over 6 million people were currently connected to hydropower mini-grids, while another 300,000 people used biogas power.
The agency underlined that power supply from mini-grids and small solar devices, such as solar home systems and solar lights was growing especially fast, as evidenced by solar panel import statistics and development project databases.
Worldwide, the number of off-grid renewable energy users is growing, according to IRENA, which, during 2017, collected detailed data about off-grid power developments to determine current estimates of off-grid capacity.
"Almost all of the growth in the use of off-grid power has occurred in the last five years — largely driven by the increased availability and affordability of small solar devices, such as solar lights and lighting kits," IRENA said, adding these devices only provided lighting and low-power charging (e.g. for mobile phones) and did not provide a comprehensive range of energy services.
"However, only about 10 percent of the population served in Africa obtains the higher level of services associated with solar home systems and mini-grids, whereas in Asia the share is over 30 percent," it noted.
The renewable energy sector added a record 167 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity, and reached 2,179 GW worldwide, according to new data released by the agency in early April.
This represents a yearly growth of around 8.3 percent, the average for seven straight years, according to Renewable Capacity Statistics 2018, which contains nearly 15,000 data points from more than 200 countries and territories.
By Hale Turkes