Private Sector Financed Community Solar Microgrids and Agricultural Accelerators

Innovator (Country of Incorporation): 
Guatemala
Collaborators: 
Development Ventures (United States)
Greenergyze S.A. (Guatemala)
Location Applied: 
Innovation Stage: 
Clean Energy Source: 
Agricultural Focus: 
Product Segment: 
Year of Award: 
Financing Status: 
Organization: 

The Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (University of the Valley of Guatemala (UVG)) is a private, not-for-profit, secular university located in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Founded in 1966 by a private foundation, it was the first private university in Guatemala to give a strong emphasis to technology. UVG has partnered with Development Ventures and Greenergyze, S.A. Development Ventures will serve as the technical lead on financial infrastructure activities. Greenergyze will lead the physical infrastructure activities.

Problem/Opportunity: 

Small-scale producers from low-income agricultural communities Guatemala are among the most vulnerable actors in agricultural value-chains across the country. Suitable technologies, including irrigation systems and cold storage facilities, are readily available in Guatemala, however, there are three main constraints preventing producers from accessing them: lack of affordable clean energy to power facilities; lack of affordable finance for investment in clean energy power generation; and lack of skilled service providers who can sustainably operate services at a price-point affordable to producers.

Clean Energy Solution: 

UVG uses an innovative approach to developing low-cost community utility companies in ‘off-grid’ agricultural communities called Community Accelerators. Each Accelerator will consist of a localized photovoltaic (PV) mini-grid and will be operated by a local for-profit service provider company that also provides agribusiness service. This “utility in a box” approach is designed so that private sector financing can be used to fund the establishment of Accelerators, making this clean energy solution scalable without additional donor funding.

Impact: 

By linking them with impact investors, the project will facilitate investment by two agricultural communities in Guatemala in affordable clean energy generation systems. This investment will enable them to power agricultural production/processing equipment (such as irrigation systems and/or cold storage facilities) that is specifically tailored to the needs of each community. In addition, the communities will receive training in new agricultural production techniques allowing them to increase their productivity.

Progress Update: 

The project team has selected five pilot sites and expects to begin initial installation of 2 minigrid systems in the coming year. The systems will be used to power a variety of equipment, including a cold room, an air dryer for coffee beans, and irrigation systems. Future plans include training associated with greenhouse operations, which require electricity, as well as training on the use of a de-husker to support agricultural activities. The project has also succeeded in sourcing two impact investors–one Guatemala-based and one international–and is in the process of completing the legal requirements for the investments to proceed.

Project News: 
4th Microgrid Global Innovation Forum

Andrew Varrow of Development Ventures—a Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) project partner—will discuss how microgrids can help eliminate energy poverty in the developing world, and outline strategies for encouraging private-sector investment in community-level microgrids.