THE Asia and Pacific region should set more aggressive targets for universal electricity access over the next decade, an energy sector expert from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

Around 200 million people in developing countries within the region had no access to electricity in 2018, down from 351 million in 2017, based on a progress report on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Despite the improvement, significant challenges continue to prevent full electrification, according to the Energy Sector Group of ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change department.

These include unreliable supply, limited capacity of microgrids and solar home systems, and the need for more electricity services beyond household consumption.

“While Asia and the Pacific (are) well on track to achieve 100% electricity access, the region must aim higher and seek to achieve 24/7 electricity supply with good quality and sufficient quantity to maximize economic and human development benefits,” Yongping Zhai, the head of ADB’s Energy Sector Group, said in a recent blog post.

The key, he said, is to pursue an integrated approach to electrification, which includes credit support from banks and the use of smart systems that allow households to inject their surplus electricity into the grid.

“From a technological point of view, individual solar home systems can be connected to each other to share extra solar generation and battery capacities to form a microgrid; while a microgrid can be connected to the national grid,” he added.

“With smart energy management systems using digital technologies, microgrids can be operated as a standalone system to maximize solar and other renewable energy generation at minimum cost, or be switched to the national grid when there is a deficit of supply within the microgrid,” he added.

He backed the formation of specialized rural energy service companies via public-private partnership “to coordinate, operate, and maintain the integrated electricity supply system.”

“Asia and the Pacific should take the lead to show the world how innovation will take us to the next level of electrification,” Mr. Zhai said. — Adam J. Ang