The Role of Micro-Grids in Promoting Access to Energy (Webinar)

22 April 2014

The Clean Energy Solutions Center, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation’s Energy Access Practitioner Network, hosted this webinar-based training on the role of micro-grids in promoting access to energy. This webinar is part of the broader work that the UN Foundation is undertaking on energy access within the UN and the World Bank’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

Panelists examined best practices and the potential for long-term sustainability of micro-grids in a number of geographic contexts, including micro-grid initiatives and projects currently underway in Asia and Africa. Panelists also examined barriers to the projects’ sustainability and scalability, and they offered perspectives on how to address these challenges.

  • Dean Cooper, United Nations Environment Programme, provided a brief overview of UNEP’s work on micro-grids, as well as the new Micro-grids High Impact Opportunity Area under the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
  • Daniel Schnitzer, EarthSpark International, shared the findings of a new study he co-authored, “Micro-grids for Rural Electrification: A critical review of best practices based on seven case studies,” which evaluates the contribution of micro-grids to electrification in developing countries. Mr. Schnitzer highlighted the best practices and barriers that were identified through this regional study, providing specific lessons learned from various countries, with a focus on Asia.
  • Fabio De Pascale, Devergy, shared lessons from and condense the broad lessons learned provided by the two speakers and discussed whether these lessons are applicable in the specific case of Devergy’s operations in Tanzania.

(webinar transcript)


Dean CooperDean Cooper, United National Environment Programme

Dean Cooper is Energy Finance Programme Manager within the Division of Technology, Industry & Economics (DTIE) at the United National Environment Programme (UNEP), based in Paris. UNEP works with the public and private sectors to build sustainable clean technology markets, using public sector funds to attract private finance and thereby scale up investment in low-carbon applications, particularly in developing countries. For seven years prior to joining UNEP, Dean headed Parallax, a small development business based in South Africa and the UK, which worked to bring sustainable clean-energy solutions to remote communities in Southern Africa. Before Parallax, Dean worked at the UK Energy Agency to help manage the UK’s Best Practice Programme, and he was then appointed Head of Co-operation with Developing Countries within the European Commission’s Energy Directorate. After four years in Brussels, Dean was seconded to the Department of Minerals and Energy in South Africa to build EU/SA energy development co-operation, and then to Botswana, to develop closer links with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Secretariat.

Fabio De PascaleFabio De Pascale, Devergy

Fabio is a co-founder of Devergy. Prior to that and during the early development of the Devergy’s micro-grid technology, Fabio was a Project Manager and Systems Engineer for the European Space Agency and aerospace engineering firms. Fabio holds an undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from Politecnico di Milano and a Masters in Space Engineering from Technische Universiteit Delft.

Dan SchnitzerDan Schnitzer, Founder and Executive Director, EarthSpark International

Dan is Founder and Executive Director of EarthSpark International. In this capacity, Dan focuses on fundraising, partnerships, and promotes the development of country-wide clean energy supply chains. Dan is also a Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Engineering & Public Policy. At Carnegie Mellon, his research focuses on solutions to increasing the utilization of renewable energy in the United States electricity sector. He was formerly employed by KEMA, Inc., a privately held energy consulting firm headquartered in The Netherlands, where his work focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy policy, engineering, and system analysis. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Dan received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in Physics, Economics and Environmental Studies.

Richenda Van LeeuwenRichenda Van Leeuwen, Executive Director, Energy Access Initiative

Presentation (PDF)
Richenda Van Leeuwen is Executive Director, Energy Access Initiative overseeing the UN Foundation's work on energy access and its engagement with the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. She founded and leads UNF’s Energy Access Practitioner Network, a 900-strong global network catalyzing market-led solutions for energy access in developing countries. She joined the UN Foundation in 2010 from Good Energies, a global renewable energy private equity firm where she led its work both on commercial emerging markets transactions and as a founding board member of the Good Energies Foundation, on the application of renewable energy technologies for poverty alleviation in developing countries. Prior to this, she served as the Executive Director of Trickle Up, an international microenterprise development non-profit organization from 2001 to 2005. A sought-out speaker on energy access, gender equity and poverty issues, she has over 20 years of executive management experience with the UN, private sector and non-profits on several continents, in particular focusing on impact investing for micro- and small and medium sized enterprises as well as post-conflict reconstruction, refugee issues and economic empowerment. She serves on the board of SELCO India, a leading renewable energy social enterprise focusing on energy solutions for poor families in India. She gained both her BS and MBA degrees from Durham University, UK.