Hydro EMPowerment Network

Knowledge Exchange for Community Micro Hydro in South and Southeast Asia

The Hydro Empowerment Network aims to advance sustainable small-scale hydropower for community empowerment in the global South. Its goals are to provide an effective south-south knowledge exchange platform and to transform knowledge exchange into action, by building the capacity of local change agents.

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The recording of the latest HPNET Webinar is now online!

News from WISIONS posted on September 18th, 2019

Our partner HPNET hold a webinar on 17 September as part of the Mini-Grids Webinar Series 2019. This was the third part of the series and this edition is was all about the very crucial part mini-grid energy projects: financial sustainability. Under the title "Mini-Grid Sustainability: Transitioning to Social Enterprise for Energy and Economic Development" three invited speakers gave insights from their experiences and shared their knowledge in this webinar. Watch the recording here!Read moreMinimize

Speakers: 

Risha Piya: Program Specialist at Winrock International Nepal

Ayu Abdullah: Co-Founder and Regional Director for Southeast Asia at Energy Action Partners

Iskander Kuntoadji: Founder of IBEKA, the People Centered Business and Economic Institute Indonesia

Context: 

Collective research and hindsight within the Hydro Empowerment Network  reveal that the long-term sustainability and impact of hydro mini-grids is dependent on how well the project is run as a viable and inclusive enterprise. This webinar featured mini-grids practitioners in South and Southeast Asia who are leading the transition from grant-dependent to enterprise-based micro and mini hydropower projects. The webinar was in particular highlighting the following points: 

  • The linkage between enterprise-based approaches and long-lived hydro mini-grids; 
  • Best practices to transition from grant dependent to local social enterprise models, based on micro hydro experience in Nepal, Malaysia and Indonesia; 
  • Solutions to scale their efforts to more micro hydro communities, including how to make better use of funding resources that currently go toward grant-dependent projects. 
In contexts where small-scale, community-based hydro mini-grids have been scaled to thousands of communities, projects typically have been funded by grant or subsidy programs, e.g. Nepal and Indonesia. The Primary ownership and management structure in these projects has been user-based groups, e.g. village electrification committees (VECs), which can be inclusive but are challenged in achieving financial sustainability. Most projects operate only for night-time use, although electricity is available 24 hours, leading to minimal revenue generation. Due to limited revenue, there are no savings. So when repair and maintenance is required, the VECs raise funds through door-to-door collection. This is time intensive and a heavy burden for VEC leadership. 

However, there are other contexts wehre scaled implementation of hydro mini-grids has occurred without grants and subsidies, e.g. Afghanistan and Myanmar. In these cases, projects have been driven by enterprise development that has enabled revenue-generation sufficient for micro hydro O/M, repair, and capital costs in some projects. Because the project has included self-financing, ownership and management structures have varied from VECs to cooperative-owned, developer-owned, and hybrid community-private models. A common factor among the different model has been the presence of an entrepreneurial individual or organization. This entrepreneur is keen able to identify, establish, and incentivize productive end use that generates local economic value-add, and ultimately run the micro hydro as a sustainable enterprise. Over the last year HPNET has facilitated a closer look to understand the factors for sustaining hydro mini-grids over the long-term. In comparing the above two scenarios it has become evident that: 

  • Grant and subsidy dependent projects often lead to projects with poor load factors and therefore inadequate revenue generation to enable long-term financial sustainability. 
  • Ownership models of grant-dependent projects tend to be inclusive but typically are not conducive for enterprise development, simply because user-based groups funded by grants were not required to perceive the need or knowhow to establish financial sustainability. 
  • While self-financed enterprise-driven projects have strong financial viability, they require more time to develop inclusive affordability and equitable benefits among factions of the community. 
  • To achieve both revenue-driven and equitable hydro mini-grids, a transition is needed toward local social enterprise, brining economic value-add to the mini-grid, village enterprises, local social services, and households. 
  • A high impact end use for value-add of electricity is local agriculture and agri-processing; however tapping it requires energy practitioners to work with agri-value chain practitioners. 

To support local practitioners and micro hydro communities in this transition, HPNET has established the initiative "Social Enterprise for Energy and Economic Development" (SEEED). One if its initial objectives is to identify and highlight the work of practitioners who are already paving the path toward long-lived mini-grids anchored in social enterprise. This webinar will help to do so. 

Further Links and Downloads: 



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Upcoming events

HPNet's next webinar in its Mini-Grids Webinar Series 2019 is on Tuesday, 17 September 2019. Read more here.

Introduction

Pico and microhydro power (P/MHP) systems (defined as systems with a capacity smaller than 100 kW) have a huge potential in many remote areas around the world and especially in the humid and hilly regions of South and Southeast Asia. Although micro hydro is well established in several countries in the region, it has yet to reach its full potential.

The needs that are primarily addressed for off-grid communities are electrical services, such as for lighting and communications, as well as productive and agricultural uses such as milling or irrigation. In the current context of high fuel and electricity prices this technology can also play an important role in generating clean electricity in areas that are connected to the national grid, but which suffer from an unreliable electricity supply.

The need to develop a network was highlighted by several organisations working with WISIONS. As a first step a workshop was held in February 2012 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which was attended by 10 organisations from the Philippines, Thailand, Lao PDR, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal, together with members of the WISIONS team. As a result of the ideas generated during this workshop the Hydro Empowerment Network was formed. For a list of all members, please visit this link. For details on becoming an HPNET member, please follow this link.

Mission & Goals

The Hydro Empowerment Network aims to catalyse practitioners of small-scale (<1MW) hydropower for the advancement and advocacy of resilient hydropower, towards equitable and sustainable development of rural communities in South and Southeast Asia.

The network provides an effective south-south knowledge exchange platform for:

  • Technology development and innovation for robust implementation
  • Policy for sustainable impact and scalability
  • Cultivation of local experts, productive uses, and vibrant watersheds
Members aim to transfer knowledge exchange into action, by building the capacity of local change agents for:

  • Technology design and dissemination
  • Ground-truthing policy ideas and outputs
  • Bottom-up project sustainability mechanisms

Activities

The network’s activities include collaborative research among members (both regional and country-specific), advocacy and bilateral and multi-lateral in-person exchanges, such as technical capacity-building workshops, practice-to-policy exchanges and network gatherings.

Network Gatherings

The meetings provide the opportunity for members to exchange knowledge and ideas in a face-to-face setting; to share experiences, gain new insights and build new partnerships, as well as to further develop and strengthen existing ones.

Practice-to-Policy Workshops

HPNET’s practice-to-policy exchanges facilitate practitioners and other MHP multi-actors to understand common goals in order to advance the sector.

Technical Training Sessions

HPNET members organise different forms of capacity-building sessions to strengthen the skills of local technicians and community organisers, who are often the first point of contact in local communities, e.g. training courses to build local capacity on concrete pico-hydro turbines, electronic load controllers (ELC) and advocacy through the development of multi-media skills (see details of linked SEPS exchanges in the right column).

Online Exchange and Web-Based Knowledge Portal

The different levels of face-to-face exchange are complemented by a network website presenting profiles of the members, members’ online forums and an online library of catalogued micro-hydro documents, multi-media products and a contacts database.

Recent Events

The Hydro Empowerment Network hosted a Deep Dive Workshop on 17 June 2019 at the Asia Clean Energy Forum in Manila in collaboration with WISIONS. The topic was "Hydro Mini-Grids in the Asia-Pacific: Scaling Inclusive Enterprise-Based Approaches". You can see the highlights here:


Coordination & Support

For the initial three years, the regional coordinator responsible for the network activities was the Sri Lankan organisation Janathakshan (GTE).

Since 2015, MHP expert Dipti Vaghela (left) has taken over the coordinating role.
The network was initiated and is primarily supported by the WISIONS initiative.