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Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

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Energy Policy
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

Scaling up finance for off-grid renewable energy: The role of aggregation MARK
and spatial diversification in derisking investments in mini-grids for rural
electrification in India

Abhishek Malhotraa, , Tobias S. Schmidta, Leonore Haelga, Oliver Waissbeinb
ETH Zurich, Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences, Energy Politics Group, Haldeneggsteig 4, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland
United Nations Development Programme, 304 E 45th Street, FF-924, New York, NY 10017, USA


Keywords: Today, about 1.1 billion people lack access to electricity worldwide. It is estimated that annual investments of 48
Energy access billion USD are required to meet the target of the Sustainable Development Goals of providing universal
Financial risk electricity access by 2030. The need for private investments to meet this target is evident, but small-scale
Poverty alleviation electrification projects are often unattractive for private investors due to unfavourable risk-return profiles and
Investment attractiveness
small investment volumes. Both issues can potentially be addressed by aggregating projects into diversified
Portfolio diversification
portfolios – an approach commonly used by investors in several contexts, but little investigated in the context of
rural electrification. This paper addresses the question of how spatial diversity in a portfolio can be used to
reduce investment risks and increase investment volumes through a mixed-method approach involving three
steps: (i) identification and classification of investment risks for renewable energy mini-grid projects, (ii)
qualitative analysis of the correlations between investment risks for different projects through interviews, and
(iii) quantitative estimation of the cost of capital and derisking effects of spatial diversification strategies for an
experimental portfolio in India. We discuss the implications for policymakers in promoting and facilitating the
ability of private sector investors to aggregate small-scale electrification investments.

1. Introduction CBI, 2015). However, there are very few studies investigating financial
aggregation of renewable energy assets in developing country or off-
About 1.1 billion people lack access to electricity worldwide. An grid contexts.
estimated 48 billion USD of annual investments are required to provide Most existing studies analysing investment risks for renewable
electricity access to them by 2030 (IEA and World Bank, 2015). mini-grid projects focus on measures to reduce risks, and to increase
Compared to the investment of 13 billion USD in 2013 (IEA, 2015), stable revenue streams for mini-grid developers (Schmidt et al., 2013;
this represents a need to scale up investments significantly. Private Aggarwal et al., 2014; Schnitzer et al., 2014; Williams et al., 2015;
investment is likely to play a major role in meeting this target Comello et al., 2017). These studies focus on single projects, and do not
(UNCTAD, 2014). However, how to attract these investments is an consider the role of investment risks for portfolios of such projects.
aspect that has not received sufficient attention in the literature on Lowder and Mendelsohn (2013) and Alafita and Pearce (2014) evaluate
rural electrification. Off-grid electrification projects are often unattrac- the potential for aggregation of distributed renewable power genera-
tive for private investors due to unfavourable risk-return profiles and tion, but only for grid-connected PV in the United States. The potential
small investment volumes (Schmidt, 2015). Both issues can potentially for aggregation of off-grid power in developing countries, a theme that
be addressed by aggregating projects into larger, diversified portfolios. is missing in these studies, is taken up by Davidsen et al. (2015),
The potential of aggregation to redirect financial flows into small-scale Gershenson et al. (2015) and (Orlandi et al., 2016). They discuss the
renewable energy is beginning to be recognised internationally. For benefits of structuring pooling facilities which can aggregate projects to
instance, solar home system developers in East Africa such as BBOXX reduce risks, increase investment volume, and lower transaction costs.
and M-Kopa have closed aggregation transactions in 2016. All the studies evaluating the potential for aggregation discuss the
Internationally, the Climate Aggregation Platform (CAP) initiative benefits of spatial diversification, i.e., investing in a portfolio of projects
was announced at the COP21 climate talks in Paris (UNDP; GEF; located across different geographic distances and jurisdictions.

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: abmalhot@ethz.ch (A. Malhotra).

Received 21 November 2016; Received in revised form 3 May 2017; Accepted 16 June 2017
Available online 23 June 2017
0301-4215/ © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

However, there is a lack of studies conducting a systematic assessment (IEA, 2011; Bhattacharyya, 2013a; UNCTAD, 2014; Pueyo et al.,
of all possible risks, their respective contributions to financing cost as 2015).
well as correlations between the risks (Schmidt, 2014). A better However, rural electrification projects in developing countries,
understanding of risks, correlations, and aggregation strategies can especially off-grid projects based on renewable power, are often
help private investors and policymakers formulate strategies to aggre- unattractive for private investors. These projects typically have un-
gate assets in order to attract private investments. favourable risk-return profiles and small investment volumes (Schmidt
This study, focusing on the role of mini-grids in achieving decen- et al., 2013; Schmidt, 2015; Williams et al., 2015). Further, renewable
tralised rural electrification, addresses the question: How can different based projects, owing to their high up-front cost, are influenced to a
project aggregation strategies be used to enable private sector much larger extent by higher financing costs as compared to fossil fuel-
investment in renewable energy mini-grids in developing countries? based generation (Schmidt, 2014). Consequently, there has been
It presents a first analysis of the derisking effect of portfolio diversifica- considerable attention towards identifying, classifying and understand-
tion on decentralised renewable energy mini-grid projects in the two ing risks and measures to address them.
Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Specifically, it analyses how Several studies have discussed investment risks for mini-grid
spatial diversity in a portfolio can be used to reduce investment risks projects, applying different classification criteria. For example,
and increase investment volumes. This is done through a mixed- Williams et al. (2015) review and classify barriers to private sector
method study involving (i) identification and classification of the major investment into three interdependent categories – financial, institu-
investment risks for decentralised renewable mini-grid projects based tional and policy, and technical barriers. Similarly, Hazelton et al.
on literature and expert interviews, (ii) qualitative analysis of the (2014) identify technical, organizational, social, sustainability, finan-
correlations between perceived investment risks for mini-grid projects cial, and safety risks for solar PV hybrid mini-grids. Franz et al. (2014)
through structured interviews with investors, project developers and organise risks at the macro level into political, social, economic, and
industry experts, and (iii) estimation of the derisking effects of different financing risks. Ahlborg and Hammar (2014) identify investment
diversification strategies across four levels (from village to national barriers in Tanzania and Mozambique, which they classify into the
level) for an experimental portfolio by applying modern portfolio categories ‘weak institutions and barriers’, ‘economy and finance’,
theory in a bottom-up techno-economic model. ‘social dimensions’, ‘technical system and local management’, ‘technol-
The remainder of this paper is structured as follows: Section 2 ogy diffusion and adaptation’, and ‘rural infrastructure’. Schmidt et al.
reviews the existing literature on aggregation and diversification of (2013) distinguish between risks arising from barriers at the local,
risks in investments for rural electrification. Section 3 describes the national and international level. Waissbein et al. (2013) classify
research case for this study. Section 4 describes the methods used, and investment risks by associating them with a specific stakeholder whose
Section 5 presents the main findings of the study. The implications for actions have the potential to result in negative impact on the project
policymakers, limitations for the current analysis, and avenues for finances, and quantify their impact on cost of financing for renewables.
further research are discussed in Section 6. They also propose policy and financial derisking instruments, i.e.
public derisking instruments aimed at mitigating investment risks
2. Literature review and transferring them to a public institution, respectively. Thus the
existing literature provides a good qualitative understanding of differ-
This section provides a review of investment needs and barriers for ent investment risks and barriers for mini-grid projects. However,
mini-grid based rural electrification projects (Section 2.1). It provides these studies generally focus either on single projects, or on barriers in
an overview of concepts related to risk diversification, and of studies the investment environment, without analysing how they might affect a
applying them to investments in the power sector in general and rural portfolio of projects. Further, none of them indicate the relative
electrification in particular (Section 2.2). importance of different risks in terms of impact on financing costs
for a diversified portfolio.
2.1. Investment needs and barriers for mini-grid based rural
2.2. Diversification of risk
With the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative
Modern portfolio theory (MPT), first introduced by Markowitz
in 2011, the UN General Assembly's declaration of the decade 2014–
(1952), provides a framework to quantify the risk reduction associated
2024 as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, and the announce-
with diversification of assets in an investment portfolio. According to
ment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), achieving uni-
MPT, the expected return of a portfolio is the weighted average of the
versal access to modern energy services by 2030 has become a major
expected returns of the individual assets. The portfolio risk, defined as
goal for sustainable development. Given the unprecedented scale of
the variance of returns of the portfolio, depends on the variance of the
this undertaking, several studies have estimated the level of invest-
returns of each of the assets, and on the correlations between the
ments required to achieve this goal. Bazilian et al. (2010) estimate
assets’ returns. Mathematically it can be represented as:
annual costs till 2030 ranging from 12 to 134 billion USD, with the
n n n
wide range largely owing to variation in underlying assumptions such
as the level of electrification, technologies employed, and fuel costs.
V (R ) = ∑ xi 2σi 2 + ∑ ∑ xi xj σi σj ρij ,
i =1 i j≠i (1)
The IEA (2011), on the other hand, provides a point estimate of 48
billion USD annual investment. In a more recent report, they note that where V (R ) is the variance of the expected returns of the portfolio, xi is
actual investments in 2013 only amounted to 13 billion USD, which is the fraction of the total portfolio investment amount invested in asset i,
projected to increase over time, averaging 30 billion USD annually σi is the standard deviation of the returns of asset i, and ρij is the
between 2015 and 2030 (IEA, 2015).1 Despite the large variation in correlation coefficient between the returns of assets i and j. When the
estimates, it is commonly acknowledged that the private sector returns of individual assets in a portfolio do not perfectly correlate
investments will play an indispensable role in meeting global targets (i.e. ρij <1), the variance of the returns of the portfolio is lower than that
of the individual assets.
Investment risks can be broadly classified as unique risks and
Regional estimates further highlight the disparity in estimates of investment needs.
See, for example, 2.4–3 billion USD for India estimated by Banerjee et al. (2015); 922
market risks (see Fig. 1). According to MPT, within one market, only
million to 12.7 billion USD for India estimated by CKinetics (2013); 7.8–78 billion unique (or project-specific) risks, are not perfectly correlated and may
estimated for two extreme scenarios in sub-Saharan Africa by Bazilian et al. (2012). be addressed by diversification (Brealey et al., 2012). In order to reduce

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

investments for further risk reduction. Overall, we observe that spatial

diversification across geographies and jurisdictional boundaries is a
common theme touched upon across these studies. However, none of
them analyse in detail the mechanisms by which it can lead to reduced
risk correlations.
Three studies discuss aggregation and diversification in the specific
case of rural electrification (Davidsen et al., 2015; Gershenson et al.,
2015; Orlandi et al., 2016). They identify several advantages of this
approach: First, portfolio diversification results in reduction in invest-
ment risk. Second, investment volumes are increased. Third, the
transaction costs are reduced on a per project basis thanks to the
centralisation of expenses. Gershenson et al. (2015) and Orlandi et al.
(2016) qualitatively assess the risks of off-grid electrification projects
as well as the transaction costs, and propose possible ways to structure
pooling facilities. Davidsen et al. (2015) propose a strategy in which a
pooling facility creates portfolios of mini-grid assets with telecom
towers as base loads, and sells asset-backed securities to capital market
investors. All three studies indicate that risks that are specific to
Fig. 1. Unique and market risks for investment portfolios.
projects, geographic locations, and jurisdictions can be addressed to
some extent by diversification across multiple projects in different
market risk, assets from different markets, e.g. other geographies or locations. Yet these studies do not provide a systematic and quantita-
industries, need to be included in the portfolio. While aggregation of tive assessment of investment risks and how diversification individually
electrification projects in developing countries therefore can potentially acts on each risk and the overall project financing cost. Furthermore, in
decrease unique risks and, depending on the extent of spatial diversi- order to make use of imperfect risk correlations for project pooling and
fication, market risks, we are not aware of academic studies investigat- diversification of risks, it is important to understand the causes and
ing portfolio diversification in this context. However, here we discuss mechanisms for correlation between risks for electrification projects
existing studies that apply concepts of portfolio theory to study the located at different distances from each other and across different
effects of diversification of investments in power generation assets. jurisdictions. Thus we find that there is a lack of studies conducting a
Wüstenhagen and Menichetti (2012) provide an overview of exist- systematic assessment of all possible risks, their respective contribu-
ing applications of MPT to investments in power generation assets. tions to financing cost (Schmidt, 2014), as well as correlations between
They include the evaluation of the diversification effect of including risks for projects located in different geographies and jurisdictions – a
renewable power generation assets in conventional power mixes gap that we address in this study.
(Awerbuch, 1993, 2000; Bhattacharya and Kojima, 2012), identifica-
tion of optimal generation portfolios in the power sector (Roques et al., 3. Research case and background
2008), and evaluation of strategies for diversifying plant-specific risks
for renewable energy technologies (Laurikka and Springer, 2003). 3.1. Research case
While there have been concerns about the use of historical variances
and correlations to make predictions about portfolio performance As the research case for this study, we chose solar PV based mini-
(Jobson and Korkie, 1981), especially in project portfolios (Hubbard, grids in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Solar PV based
2014), most analyses rely on historical data of costs and electricity mini-grids are chosen because of three main reasons. First, according
prices not to predict, but to demonstrate the effects of portfolio to the IEA, 40% of the installed capacity required to provide universal
diversification. electricity access would need to come from off-grid sources, including
There is a notable lack of analyses for aggregation of distributed mini-grids, in order to achieve universal electrification by 2030 (IEA,
generation, which could be attributed to several related reasons – the 2011). With their fast declining costs, modularity, no emissions, and
immaturity of markets leading to lack of substantial historical data high resource potential, solar PV based mini-grids in particular are fast
(Alafita and Pearce, 2014); the rate of technological change and policy becoming a viable alternative to other electrification technologies (see
uncertainty leading to concerns about the applicability of such data; Table A1; Kempener et al., 2015; Nykvist and Nilsson, 2015). Second,
and the fact that distributed generation has largely been financed by mini-grids can support higher levels of electrification as compared to
the end-users in the case of grid-connected generation, or by grants in other off-grid technologies, and can create opportunities for productive
the case of off-grid generation for rural electrification (Bhattacharyya, use of electricity for income generation activities (Blum, 2013; Pueyo,
2013a; Pueyo et al., 2015). Despite this, with the emergence of new 2013; Chattopadhyay et al., 2015). However, their high upfront
aggregative financing models for distributed solar in the US (Hess, investment cost and low variable cost (as compared to fossil fuel based
2013), there has been an increased interest in investigating the benefits power generation) result in the cost of finance forming a significant
of project aggregation. Lowder and Mendelsohn (2013) estimate the portion of the LCOE in developing countries (Blum et al., 2013;
potential for aggregation of distributed solar PV generation in the US, Ondraczek et al., 2015). Third, we focus only on a single technology
and discuss the potential reduction in financing costs for the asset because we are interested in analysing the effects of spatial diversifica-
originator due to diversification of credit risk and geographic risks. tion in a portfolio. Theoretically, other strategies such as diversifying
Mendelsohn and Feldman (2013) calculate the levelised cost of across different technologies, or across projects by different project
electricity (LCOE), assuming lower financing costs for aggregative developers can also be used to reduce risks. However, the increased
financing structures due to increased access to low cost capital, transaction costs due to lack of streamlining and standardisation of due
increased liquidity allowing access to a wider class of investors, and diligence processes across different technologies and corresponding
increased diversity of the underlying assets. Alafita and Pearce (2014) business models can be prohibitive (Gershenson et al., 2015).
identify and model the influence of some key parameters on the cost of The study analyses the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India
financing for aggregated residential solar PV assets. They note that because of three reasons. First, India's multi-level governance structure
“natural or manmade disasters, decline of regional industry, or change allows us to study the effects of spatial diversification across different
in state policy” could be arguments for geographic diversification of jurisdictions within the same country. The organisation of institutions

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

related to rural electrification in India is complex and overlapping, with 4. Methods

a mix of ministries, agencies, utilities and administrators operating at
the national, state and district level (see Section 3.2). Each of these This study uses a mixed methods approach in order to identify,
stakeholders is capable of affecting different investment barriers, classify, and analyse investment risks for mini-grid portfolios. We use
leading to the possibility of investment risks occurring at different qualitative interview based data and a literature review to analyse
governance levels.2 Second, we analyse Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as they investment risks and their correlations, and quantitative methods to
have a relatively high number of firms active in the solar PV-based explore the potential effects of different diversification strategies on an
mini-grid electrification space (see Table A1 and Davidsen et al., 2015). experimental portfolio.
Third, India, with 263 million people lacking electricity access, has the
highest absolute number of unelectrified households globally (IEA and
4.1. Qualitative analysis of risks and their correlations
World Bank, 2015), with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar accounting for about
180 million people of this total (Banerjee et al., 2015).
In the first step, qualitative methods are used to investigate the
research question. This is because qualitative analysis allows us to
understand the mechanisms by which investment risks for mini-grid
3.2. Background
projects in different locations correlate in greater depth as compared to
quantitative methods (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2003). First, following
India is a federal state, with power as a “concurrent” subject,
Yin (2003), we used a literature review to develop first hypotheses on
meaning that it falls within the purview of both central and state
the classification of investment risks. For this analysis, it is important
legislatures and governments. This, along with a long history of rural
that investment risks are categorized such that they are mutually
electrification efforts, has resulted in a complex institutional landscape
independent to the greatest extent possible, so that each of them can be
for rural electrification with several actors and institutions at the
analysed independently. Waissbein et al. (2013) propose such a risk
national, state and local levels. At the national level, India's power
classification for large-scale grid-connected renewable energy projects,
sector (including rural electrification) is governed and overseen by the
in which each risk category is associated with a specific stakeholder
Ministry of Power (MOP). The Central Electricity Regulatory
who can potentially affect project finances negatively. In this study, we
Commission (CERC) is responsible for regulation of tariff of generating
apply this classification scheme to investment risks for mini-grid
companies owned or controlled by the central government and
electrification projects.
companies active in more than one state. It also advises the central
Second, we conducted six exploratory semi-structured interviews
government in formulation of National Electricity Policy and Tariff
with Indian and international investors, project developers and in-
Policy. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is
dustry experts, each lasting 60–90 min. They were used to refine and
responsible for developing and promoting renewable energy sources
adjust the classification of risks,3 and to understand whether the
in general. Additionally, the Indian Renewable Energy Development
magnitude of correlations of risk categories depends more on the
Agency (IREDA), a non-banking financial institution under the MNRE,
extent of geographic distance between projects, or on diversification
provides term loans for off-grid, renewable energy and energy effi-
across jurisdictional boundaries. A list of potential interview partners
ciency projects. Currently, activities in the power sector are guided by
was compiled on the basis of a literature research and personal
the Electricity Act 2003. Even though the Act was framed with
contacts. In preparation for the interviews, we scanned newspaper
centralised, non-intermittent power generation sources as the primary
articles, case study reports and online company statements for
focus, mini-grids are still recognised as an alternative to grid extension
information related to the company and the interviewee. The informa-
for electricity supply in rural areas. It provides for exemptions for tariff
tion was used to tailor the interview guidelines to the interviewee's
approval and license requirements, and prescribes technical standards
organisation and experience.
and safety measures for mini-grids.
Third, we conducted 12 structured interviews with project devel-
At the state level, the power department of the state government is
opers and investors active in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, each lasting
responsible for formulating state-level power sector policies. Individual
between 60 and 120 min, in order to deepen our understanding of each
State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) regulate the power
one of the risk categories. At least two interviewers conducted the
sector at the state level. State-level institutions for electrification and
interviews, with one interviewer taking notes and recording the inter-
renewable energy (usually known as State Renewable Energy
view proceedings (for a full list of interviews, refer to Table 1).
Development Agencies) serve as nodal agencies for developing, im-
plementing and promoting renewable energy and off-grid electrifica-
tion projects. Implementation of rural electrification projects is usually 4.2. Quantitative modelling of effects of portfolio diversification
the responsibility of the public utilities in the states, which are executed
at the sub-district (or sectional) level (Banerjee et al., 2015). Finally, The structured interviews were also used to get quantitative ratings
private developers need approval from the village-level governing body of likelihood and financial impact of each risk category, and the extent
(the village panchayat) to deploy mini-grid projects. of correlation between projects either distributed across different
Overall, national regulations and policies related to mini-grids are jurisdictions, or at different geographic distances. The method pro-
guided by institutions and legislations at the national level, which are posed by Waissbein et al. (2013) was applied to calculate the attribu-
taken up, adapted, and implemented by institutions at the state level. tion of each risk category to the cost of capital. First, the interviewees
The flexibility of the policy framework in accommodating private mini- rated the likelihood and financial impact of each risk category on a
grids has resulted in the rise a number of for-profit mini-grid Likert scale from 1 to 5. The product of the two ratings gave a measure
developers, largely funded by grants, impact investments and venture of the scoring of each risk category for the model calculations. Second,
capital (see Table A2). However, commercial debt has so far been for data on the correlation ratings, the interviewees stated for each risk
relatively inaccessible for mini-grid enterprises (Interviews; Davidsen category whether the correlation between any two projects depends on
et al., 2015). jurisdictional boundaries or on geographical distance. Then, following
the elicitation methods of Garthwaite et al. (2005) we asked the
We follow Fukuyama (2013) in defining governance as “a government's ability to
make and enforce rules, and to deliver services”. This can vary across jurisdictions, We limit the scope of our analysis to project developers, investors and industry
depending on the stakeholders involved. Thus, we take both the structures, and the experts since they have operational experience of barriers and risks for investments into
mechanisms of governance into account (Levi-Faur, 2012). off-grid rural electrification projects in this specific context.

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

Table 1
List of interviews.

Interview type Interview Stakeholder Interviewee Interview codea


Exploratory 1 Project developer Executive director of mini-grid company active in Tanzania DEV
interviews 2 Investor Co-founder and managing director of a non-profit impact investor firm with INV
clean energy assets in developing countries
3 Industry expert Senior researcher in the field of electrification and small-scale renewable energy EXP
4 Industry expert Consultant for small-scale renewable energy projects and rural electrification EXP
5 Industry expert Executive director of industry association and policy advocacy for the EXP
decentralised clean energy sector
6 Public donor Advisor of public development aid organisation PUB
Structured 7 Project developer and Researcher on renewable mini-grids, and founder and executive director of DEV
interviews industry expert mini-grid company
8 Project developer Director of a mini-grid company DEV
9 Project developer Executive director of a mini-grid company DEV
10 Project developer Managing director and investment lead of mini-grid company (2 interviewees) DEV
11 Project developer Executive director of a mini-grid company DEV
12 Project developer Former head of business development of a mini-grid company DEV
13 Project developer Director of a mini-grid company DEV
14 Project developer Director of a mini-grid company DEV
15 Investment advisor Director of an investment consulting company INV
16 Public investor Deputy general manager (Renewable energy), assistant general manager INV
(Corporate planning) and assistant manager (Corporate planning) of a public
debt investment company (3 interviewees)
17 Impact investor Regional investment manager of nonprofit debt investor INV
18 Industry expert Chairman and principal analyst of charitable foundation and policy advisory EXP
supporting and researching the mini-grid sector (2 interviewees)

DEV = Project Developer; INV = Investor; EXP = Industry Expert; PUB = Public donor.

interviewees to rate the correlations of the individual risk categories all the projects in the portfolio.6 In order to estimate the impact of
between two projects located at varying degrees of separation in terms uncertainty in the elicited correlation coefficients, we modelled them as
of jurisdictions and geographic distances on a Likert scale from 1 to 5 stochastic inputs in a Monte Carlo simulation. We used a PERT
(for survey questions refer to Table B1 in Appendix B).4 The survey distribution to model the correlation coefficients,7 using the minimum,
data thus obtained is a proxy for expectations of future asset perfor- mean, and maximum values elicited in the survey as inputs for the
mance. While the precise values of actual risk correlation coefficients parameters (minimum, most likely, and maximum value) for the PERT
cannot be obtained by such a method, the mean of the elicited values distribution. Each Monte Carlo simulation was conducted with 10,000
taken relative to each other can certainly be used to illustrate the iterations.
efficacy of different spatial diversification strategies in order to address We calculated the pre-tax LCOE for a single mini-grid project and
specific risks. Finally, data on cost of financing for mini-grid projects for the mini-grid portfolio. We further calculated the pre-tax LCOE for
was obtained from the interviewees, which was triangulated with other a mini-grid powered by a diesel generator to serve as a baseline for
data sources obtained through desk research. comparison. The LCOE was calculated as:
In the second step, to calculate the effect of spatial diversification on T Expenditures
risks, we calculated the variance of the returns of the individual project, CAPEX + ∑t =1 (1 + WACC )tt
LCOE = Electricitygeneratedt
and correlations between different projects distributed across different T
∑t =1 (1 + WACC )t (4)
jurisdictions, or at different geographic distances. The correlation of
returns ρij of two assets i and j was calculated as: where CAPEX is the initial capital expenditure, T is the project lifetime,
n t is the year and WACC is the weighted average cost of capital.8
ρij = ∑ xr ρij,r Assumptions related to the technological parameters, cost assump-
r =1 (2) tions, loads and capacities for various mini-grid components are
where xr is the score of risk r (the product of the likelihood and outlined in Appendix D.
financial impact ratings obtained from the interviewees) and ρij, r is the
correlation of risk r between projects i and j . These values were used to 5. Results
calculate the standard deviation of the returns of the overall portfolio,
and the resulting cost of financing, assuming that the financing cost In this section we first present the qualitative results of the analysis of
depends linearly on the standard deviation within this range.5 A the identified risk categories. We describe in detail the mechanisms by
conservative estimate of the new risk premium was calculated as: which the risks are correlated. Second, we present the results of the
quantitative analysis, which indicate the contributions of different risks to
1 ⎛ 1⎞
rp, a ≥ ra + ⎜1 − ⎟ ra ρav, a the cost of financing, and the effects of diversification across jurisdictional
n ⎝ n⎠ (3) boundaries and geographic distances in terms of risk reduction.
where rp, a and ra are the risk premium of risk category a for a portfolio
and for one project, respectively. n is the number of projects in the 6
Eq. (3) applies to the specific case of equal standard deviations and equal shares of
portfolio and ρav, a is the average correlation of risk category a between investment volume for each project in the portfolio. The derivation is presented in
Appendix C.
The PERT (Programme Evaluation and Review Technique) distribution is particu-
It was assumed that the risk categories do not have negative correlations. larly suited for modelling of expert elicitations (Brown et al., 2001; Vose et al., 2016;
This is an approximation which we use for high-risk assets with small changes in Battke et al., 2013).
standard deviation of returns resulting from aggregation. In general, the cost of capital is In this study, the WACC is equal to the cost of equity, since each project is assumed to
seen as a concave upward investor utility function of the risk (Lintner, 1965). be 100% equity financed.

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

Table 2
Risk categories for renewable energy mini-grid projects identified through literature review and exploratory interviews.

Risk category Description Key stakeholder group

Power market risk Risk arising from limitations and uncertainty in the energy market (off- and on-grid) Power market-related policymakers (civil servants);
regarding market outlook, price, access and competition legislators; regulators
Permits risk Risk arising from the public sector's inability to efficiently and transparently administer Permit administrators
mini-grid-related licensing and permits
Technology sourcing Risk arising from limitations in the quality and availability of mini-grid hardware, as well Technology supply chain; technical regulator; customs
risk as the customs treatment of hardware (excise)
Financing risk Risks arising from scarcity of domestic investor capital (debt and equity) for renewable Domestic investors (equity and debt), financial sector
energy, and domestic investors' lack of familiarity with renewable energy and regulator
appropriate financing structures
Currency risk Risks arising from currency mismatch between hard currency debt/equity and domestic No specific stakeholder
currency revenues
Grid extension risk Risks arising from uncertainty in grid extension plans and technical regulations for Utility, distribution company; utility/grid regulator
integration into the main grid
Social acceptance risk Risks arising from lack of awareness and resistance to renewable energy and mini-grids General public; NGOs
in communities
Payment and credit Risk arising from customers' willingness, ability, and methods of payment for electricity End users; consumer finance actors (consumer banks,
risk credit data actors, end-consumer finance regulator)
Sovereign risk Risk arising from a mix of cross-cutting political, economic, institutional and social No specific stakeholder
characteristics in the particular country which are not specific to mini-grids
Labour inputs risk Risks arising from the lack of skilled and qualified potential employees Labour force, educational institutions
Developer risk Risks arising from limitations in the developer's capability to efficiently and effectively Mini-grid developer (BOO)
design, install, operate, maintain and monitor the project

Fig. 2. Schematic diagram of the jurisdictional boundaries and geographic distances across which a mini-grid portfolio needs to be diversified to address specific risks. For projects
located across the jurisdictions and geographic distances below the arrows, the correlation of the specific risk category is maximum and constant.

5.1. Qualitative results: Investment risks for mini-grid projects and 5.1.1. Risks with correlations depending purely on jurisdictions
their correlation mechanisms Power Market Risk was generally perceived to have a high
impact on financing costs. As described in Section 3.2, electrification
As described in Section 3, we used an adapted version of the targets, legislations, and policies related to planning, regulation and
classification scheme proposed by Waissbein et al. (2013) to classify provision of incentives for electrification projects are decided at the
investment risks into categories based on the primary stakeholder with national level in India. The Ministry of Power currently targets to
which they are associated (Table 2 summarises the risks). We then provide electricity access to every household in India by 2022, and
describe the correlations of these risks for different projects, and their every household in Uttar Pradesh by 2019. However, the lack of clarity
dependence on geographic distances and jurisdictions. These findings regarding the role of mini-grids in the target creates uncertainty in the
are schematically represented in Fig. 2.9 market outlook for project developers and investors (Gram Oorja,
2013). Under Section 8.5 and 8.6 of the Rural Electrification policy of
2006, mini-grids are exempt from tariff approvals by regulators and
Developer risk was excluded from the qualitative analysis and from Fig. 2, since its can set the retail tariffs based on mutual agreements with customers.
correlation is independent of spatial dimensions. Under Section 8.5 of the Policy, mini-grids are subject to technical

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

standards and safety measures implemented by the Central Electricity scarcity across different states to a small extent.
Authority. Given that the current mini-grid enterprises are operating Currency Risk was generally perceived to have a moderate impact
under this regime, ongoing discussions regarding a national mini-grid on financing costs. This risk category applies in cases where equipment
policy (Bhattacharyya and Palit, 2016) mean that risks arising from is imported and the purchase is made in foreign currency, and in cases
changes in policies and regulations affect all projects located within the where investments are made in a foreign currency, while revenues are
country, contributing to risk correlation at the national level. In generated in the local currency. Since India has one currency, the
addition, state power departments and nodal agencies have jurisdiction Indian Rupee, currency risk correlates perfectly for projects located
over state-specific deployment policies, and state regulatory commis- across all jurisdictions within the country. The risk can potentially be
sions each set their own regulations and electricity tariffs. Uncertainties addressed by diversifying the portfolio with projects from different
regarding the mini-grid policy for the state of Uttar Pradesh under countries and therefore different currencies (INV, EXP). However, the
discussion by the Uttar Pradesh New and Renewable Energy correlation can only be partially reduced even when diversifying across
Development Agency (UPNEDA) at the time of the interviews were national borders since different currencies may move similarly depend-
perceived to affect all projects within the state equally (INV, DEV).10 ing on the global economy.
Therefore, power market risk was perceived by the interviewees to
correlate highly between projects within one state, since any policy or 5.1.2. Risks with correlations depending on both jurisdictions and
regulatory changes at either the state or national level are equally likely geographic distance
to affect all projects within a state. For the same reason, the correlation Grid Extension Risk was generally perceived to have a high
is lower for projects located in different states.11 impact on financing costs. In India, the planning and execution of grid
Permits Risk was generally perceived to have a low impact on extension is the outcome of a complex process involving several
financing costs. Administration of permits was found not to be an issue stakeholders at the national and state levels, creating a high degree
in India since Section 14 of the Electricity Act of 2003 specifies that of uncertainty regarding which projects might be affected (Chandran-
operators for generation and distribution in rural areas are exempt Wadia et al., 2015). The interviews revealed that the correlation of grid
from any license requirement, except in special cases where they need extension risk between projects depends on jurisdictions as well as
to be deployed in protected areas such as forests (DEV; Palit et al., geographical distances, since it is influenced by both political factors
2014). Even though the risk itself was perceived to be low, the (electoral cycles and the political will of the state government) and
interviewees indicated that in case permits would be needed from geographic factors (proximity to pre-existing grid). Formulation of
different authorities in the future, correlation would be high within a electrification strategy and allocation of financial resources for grid
district, since this would be handled at the district level. As observed by extension is done at the national and state level. State utilities plan and
one interviewee, “If you are looking at a district, then it is the same execute grid extension projects, dividing the states into sections, which
district administration. So for different districts you may even say that are at the sub-district level (EXP). While theoretically the utilities are
the district administration is easier to deal with than another, but I independent entities, free to pursue their own grid extension plans, the
think across the district it's likely to be the same” (EXP). Three practical implementation is the outcome of a political process in which
interviewees highlighted the human aspect of the permitting process, local politicians may, as one interviewee put it, “decide to invest in grid
pointing out that since different officers would administer the permits, extension to win elections” (DEV; Baskaran et al., 2015). This is
even within a district, correlation would not be perfect (DEV, EXP). exemplified in the observation that “The actual effect on your portfolio
However, it was commonly agreed that correlation would reduce by of micro-grids is going to be felt at the district or village level where the
diversifying across districts and states. physical build-out of the grid is occurring […], but the decision was
Technology Sourcing Risk was generally perceived to have a made at the state or national level” (DEV). Considering the geographic
moderate impact on financing costs. Several interviewees highlighted dimension, correlations were found to be high at small geographic
the homogeneous technology market within India, implying equal but distances. Since grid extension occurs in batches of several villages,
imperfect correlation of technology sourcing risk across different extension of the distribution grid to one village makes it more likely
jurisdictions. According to one interviewee, “When it comes to procur- that a neighbouring village is likely to be electrified as well (DEV). This
ing technology, [the market] is the same for every state” (DEV). One is supported by the findings of Kemmler (2007) and Oda and Tsujita
interviewee mentioned a potential gap between rural and urban areas (2010), who show that proximity to the grid and subsequent access to
implying that, if a developer in a rural area faces problems procuring grid electricity are highly correlated.
the necessary technology, a developer in an urban area may not face the Social Acceptance Risk was generally perceived to have a
same problem (EXP). This rather geographical aspect was however moderate impact on financing costs. Though most interviewees per-
dismissed by other interviewees referring to the low transportation cost ceived barriers due to resistance from local communities as a minor
within India. issue, they agreed that social acceptance risk correlates at a local level
Financing Risk was generally perceived to have a high impact on due to factors related to both jurisdictions and geographical distances.
financing costs. Most interviewees rated financing risk to be similar in Hierarchical structures associated with informal and formal institu-
the whole country and to highly correlate across all jurisdictions within tions are important, and village heads and district politicians can be
India (INV, DEV). However, there are some perceived differences influential in determining social perceptions of renewable technologies
across states due to differences in maturity of financial sectors and and mini-grids (EXP), leading to high correlation within a village or
proximity to major cities with concentrations of human and financial even district. The geographical dimension arises because in case there
resources. This reduces the correlation of risk arising from capital are negative perceptions towards mini-grids in one location, “word of
mouth can travel to spread negative perceptions” (DEV). At short
distances, “the market is very homogeneous” (DEV) and perception of
This is exemplified by the observation by an interviewee: “Power Market is pretty
renewables amongst villagers very similar. Correlation of social accep-
clearly a state and national issue. […] The more conventional risks around subsidies and
tariff regulation are likely to be set at the national level and some are set at the state level” tance risk was therefore considered high at small geographic distances
(DEV). and within lower governance levels (villages and districts). With
Unlike the opinion of the majority of the interviewees, one interviewee rated the increasing diversification across jurisdictions and geographical dis-
correlation of Power Market Risk to depend on geographical distance rather than tances, the correlation between projects reduces significantly.
governance levels and to be almost zero at distances of 20–150km. He stated, “We are
active in such tiny villages that are not even considered villages. State legislation hence
Payment and Credit Risk was generally perceived to have a
does not have an influence on our activity. I therefore see correlation only for very close- moderate impact on financing costs. It was also found to correlate due
by projects.” (DEV). to factors related to jurisdictions as well as geographical distance.

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

Potential mini-grid customers in rural areas are mainly dependent on of 10 projects. Assuming market risk to be approximated by the risk of
agriculture as their source of income. In case a customer is unable to a portfolio with 1000 projects, unique (or diversifiable) risks were
pay electricity bills due to a bad harvest, it is very likely that other found to account for 2.5% points (pp) of the cost of equity.
customers in nearby areas engaged in agriculture will be affected as Fig. 3b shows the effect of diversification across jurisdictions on the
well, making payment risk highly correlated in the entire region. risk. As expected, the unique risk reduces as the number of projects
Additionally, local communication channels play an important role in increases. The contribution of market risk to cost of equity reduces by
increased correlation of non-payment at small geographic distances. 0.3 pp and 0.9 pp when the projects are located in different districts of
This is highly influenced by “…word of mouth. If the neighbouring the same state and in different states, respectively. A noticeable aspect
village doesn't pay, they also don’t want to pay” (DEV). The correlation, of diversification across jurisdictions is the fact that the incremental
however, reduces with increasing distance between projects. To a lesser derisking effect of diversification across different districts is smaller
extent, the correlation of payment and credit risk across jurisdictions than the incremental derisking effect of diversification across different
arises from the collective behaviour (DEV) of villagers to whom local states. This reflects the Indian governance structure in which states are
politicians or village heads set an example. If one of them has a low responsible for the implementation of most policies concerning the
willingness to pay for mini-grid based electricity, it is likely to influence electricity sector whereas districts only have minor executive and no
the willingness to pay for customers within the village (EXP). legislative power.
Sovereign Risk was generally perceived to have a moderate The derisking effect of geographic diversification is displayed in
impact on financing costs. Sovereign risk includes barriers arising Fig. 3c. The reduction in market risk is higher in this case, with a
from general political, economic, and geographic conditions, which are reduction of 1.3 pp and 2.2 pp for portfolios with projects spread across
not specific to mini-grids and may lead to negative financial impact for distances of 20–150 km and greater than 150 km, respectively. Thus
any investment in a country. This includes risk arising due to conflict, diversifying across moderate distances (20–150 km) has a higher
political instability, legal governance, economic performance and incremental derisking effect than high distances ( > 150 km). Even
natural disasters, which are found to correlate across jurisdictions as though more risk categories correlate due to jurisdictions than
well as geographical distances. With the risk spanning from local up to geographical distances, the correlations of geographic risks are com-
national events, the correlation is high at the local level (district level as parably lower and contribute more to overall risk reduction.
well as neighbouring projects located less than 20 km away from each Finally, Fig. 3d shows the combined derisking effects of the
other) and decreases when diversifying across jurisdictional and different aggregation strategies including increasing portfolio size,
geographical dimensions. diversification across jurisdictional boundaries and geographic dis-
tances. Spatial diversification can hence result in a maximum theore-
5.1.3. Risks with correlations independent of spatial diversity tical reduction in cost of equity from 21.7% to 16.4%. This is not
Labour Inputs Risk was generally perceived to have a moderate realisable in practice since each project is in a different state and at a
impact on financing costs. The interviewees generally did not perceive distance of greater than 150 km from every other project.
labour inputs risk to be addressable by diversification across either In addition, we calculate the cost of equity for a ‘moderate scenario
spatial dimension. While labour for basic electrical and civil work is portfolio’ with 10 projects. Five of the projects are located in one
abundantly available in most places, more skilled labour may be harder district of one state within a distance of 20 km from each other. The
to acquire in some areas. Given the early stage of market development other five are located in one district of a different state, also within a
for mini-grids, all project developers without exception have to under- distance of 20 km from each other, but greater than 150 km away from
take in-house training for new employees for installation, operation the first five projects. The combined effect of increased portfolio size,
and maintenance of mini-grids. One interviewee rated the correlation and diversification across jurisdictional boundaries and geographic
to be high in the entire country because “[rural] areas have similar distances in this moderate scenario results in a cost of equity of 17.8%.
demographics. If one area needs education, another will need educa- Fig. 4 illustrates the derisking effect and hence the reduction in cost
tion as well” (PUB). Another interviewee stressed on the “urban-rural of equity, and the extent of the individual risk reductions for the
dichotomy” (EXP) with high correlations for areas equally far from ‘moderate scenario portfolio’. Six risk categories (power market risk,
urban centres and decreasing when moving closer to cities. permit risk, technology sourcing risk, financing risk, currency risk and
Fig. 2 schematically summarizes the results of the qualitative sovereign risk) correlate at the national or state level, which means the
analysis. reduction in correlation by diversification across two states, and hence
the effectiveness of diversification across jurisdictional boundaries is
relatively low. In contrast, three risk categories (grid extension risk,
5.2. Quantitative results: Indicative calculation for an experimental social acceptance risk, and payment and credit risk) correlate mainly
portfolio across distance with their source often being very local. The rate at
which the correlation reduces with increasing distance between two
This section presents the results of a model which demonstrates the projects of these three risks is hence relatively high and geographic
potential effects of spatial diversification for different portfolios,12 diversification across small distances is an efficient tool for risk
showing the effects of increasing portfolio size and spatial diversifica- reduction. Thus even though the number of risks addressed by
tion on portfolio risk and cost of equity. We present the contributions geographic diversification is lower, in this case it is overall more
of the individual risks to the cost of equity, and the LCOE, before and effective than diversification across jurisdictional boundaries.
after diversification. The results of the LCOE calculations described in Section 4.2 are
Fig. 3 indicates the reduction in cost of equity resulting from illustrated in Fig. 5.13 The LCOE of solar PV-battery mini-grids in Uttar
increasing the portfolio size (Fig. 3a), with all projects in a given Pradesh was found to be 0.73 USD/kWh for one project and 0.63 USD/
portfolio distributed across different jurisdictions (Fig. 3b), geographic kWh for the portfolio described above. This corresponds to a reduction
distances (Fig. 3c), and both jurisdictions and geographic distances of 13.8% in the LCOE, making solar PV based mini-grids more
(Fig. 3d). Fig. 3a shows the exponential decay of the risk with competitive with conventional diesel generation based mini-grids.
increasing portfolio size at a single location, resulting in a reduction
in the cost of equity from 21.7% for one project to 19.6% for a portfolio
We present the results of LCOE calculations for two additional scenarios in
Appendix F as sensitivities. One scenario incorporates state investment subsidies in
Interview responses used as inputs for the model are summarized in Table E1 and the capital structure, and the second scenario models the impact of incorporation of debt
Table E2. in the capital structure of the diversified portfolio.

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

a. 23.0 b. 23.0

22.0 22.0

21.0 21.0
Cost of equity [%]

Cost of equity [%]

20.0 20.0
Diversify across 19.0
19.0 jurisdiconal
boundaries 18.0
Same district
1.0 1.0 Different district, same state
Same district, < 20 km Different state
0.0 0.0
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Number of projects 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Number of projects
Diversify across

Diversify across


c. d.
23.0 23.0

22.0 22.0

21.0 21.0

Cost of equity [%]

Cost of equity [%]


19.0 Diversify across 19.0

18.0 boundaries 18.0

17.0 17.0

16.0 < 20 km 16.0 Same district, < 20 km

20-150 km Different district, same state, 20-150 km
1.0 1.0
> 150 km Different state, > 150 km
0.0 0.0
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Number of projects 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Number of projects

Fig. 3. Derisking effect of increasing portfolio size and spatial diversification on cost of equity.

Fig. 4. Derisking effect of spatial diversification on individual risk categories. The labels above the individual risk categories indicate the reduction in risk premium in the moderate
portfolio scenario. The residual risk premium is the component of the risk premium remaining after spatial diversification.

6. Conclusions and policy implications – continues to be one of the major bottlenecks in scaling up their
deployment. Previous studies such as those by Gershenson et al. (2015)
Off-grid energy sources will play a significant role in achieving and Davidsen et al. (2015) have discussed the potential benefits of
universal electricity access in the near future. However, lack of aggregation of mini-grid investments, primarily focusing on the
financing – due to unfavourable risk-return profiles, small investment resulting reduction in transaction costs for private investors, increased
volumes, and absence of appropriate financing sources and structures access to institutional capital, and diversification of risks. Our key

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

-13.8% Similar measures such as supporting standardisation of contracts and

0.8 95% error bar legal documentation, and sharing of best practices for mini-grid
policies can support intermediaries in aggregation of investments,
0.63 and even in structuring of asset portfolios across multiple countries
0.6 (which, as indicated in Fig. 2, can further reduce risk correlations).
Pre-tax LCOE [USD/kWh]

Thus public efforts devoted to enable structuring of diversified asset

0.5 portfolios by mini-grid developers or third parties such as DFIs can
benefit both investors and end-users: because of reduced risks and
0.4 hence increased interest from a wider range of more risk-averse
investors, and because of reduced cost of electricity provision resulting
0.3 from lower financing cost.

0.2 6.2. Supporting policy experimentation and learning

Our results show that there is a high level of uncertainty associated
0.0 with barriers arising from public sector stakeholders (leading to power
LCOE Diesel LCOE LCOE market risk, permit risk, grid expansion risk), which can be addressed to
mini-grid Single Porolio some extent by diversifying investment portfolios across jurisdictional
Project boundaries. It has been previously discussed in literature that policy
intervention is necessary for regulation and scaling up of mini-grids: First,
Fig. 5. Reduction in LCOE resulting from spatial diversification.
mini-grids can be seen as a natural monopoly which need regulation to
protect customers and ensure quality of service (Bhattacharyya, 2013b).
findings indicate how aggregation of mini-grid assets can play a
Second, they are complex systems and have the potential to benefit from
significant role in addressing investment risks (Fig. 3a). Further,
deployment policies due to learning-by-using (Blum et al., 2015).
aggregating mini-grid assets strategically into diversified portfolios
However, policy frameworks for private sector mini-grids are still at a
can be even more effective at addressing risks (Figs. 3b, c, d). In this
nascent stage, with relatively few examples to be found. In such situations,
section, we discuss three aspects related to the analysis carried out in
it has been proposed that policy experimentation by state and local
this study that need to be taken into consideration. First, risk-return
governments might be critical to promote policy learning and adaptation
profiles for mini-grids can potentially be made more attractive through
in the specific context (Shipan and Volden, 2008), including policies
policies aimed at facilitating or instituting structures for aggregation of
aiming to promote technological innovation (Chaminade et al., 2011).
projects into diversified portfolios. Second, policymakers can help
However, when such policies take the form of deployment policies, the
mitigate risks arising from experimentation and learning required to
inherent uncertainty associated with the experimentation process also
develop and adapt these policy measures by facilitating diversification
creates negative effects in the form of investment risks. Policymakers can
of investments across jurisdictions. Third, while designing deployment
address this trade-off by enabling portfolio diversification across jurisdic-
policies to attract private investment into mini-grids, policymakers
tions, and by transferring risks to the public sector through financial
need to assess how diversification interacts with other derisking
derisking. This could be done by international agencies with mini-grid
measures – namely risk mitigation and risk transfer – and how they
portfolios spanning several countries, each with country-specific mini-grid
can be effectively combined.
deployment policies in place. This could also be taken up by policymakers
at the national level in nations with regional or state-specific policy
6.1. Institutions for aggregating investments into mini-grids frameworks for mini-grids such as those in India.

Our analysis indicates that the high cost of financing solar PV based 6.3. Risk diversification as a complement to other public derisking
mini-grids (especially when compared to the financing cost for large instruments
scale grid-connected renewables – see Nelson et al., 2012), can be
addressed to some extent by aggregation and diversification of invest- In our analysis, we focus on portfolio diversification as a means of
ments across different geographic distances and jurisdictional bound- addressing investment risks. But as seen in Fig. 4, there are still
aries. Policymakers at the national level can utilise this by taking residual risks, which can potentially be addressed by policy and
measures to enable diversification of investments within the country. financial derisking instruments discussed in Section 2.1. These differ-
For instance, granting of concessions or provision of franchisee ent approaches can complement each other in two ways. First, while
contracts to mini-grid developers under national rural electrification policy derisking measures can be very effective at addressing risks by
policies should be done across geographic distances and jurisdictional systematically removing the underlying barriers (Waissbein et al.,
boundaries to incentivise the creation of a spatially diverse market for 2013; Schinko and Komendantova, 2016), most policy derisking
rural electrification, providing opportunities for intermediaries or instruments require several years to take effect (Schmidt, 2014).
investors to structure spatially diverse portfolios. Furthermore, their viability depends to a large extent on the presence
International organizations and development finance institutions of strong policy commitment and institutional capacity (Carafa et al.,
(DFIs) can potentially support such efforts through measures aimed at 2015). Thus in the short term, diversification across jurisdictional
supporting the creation of structures for aggregation of mini-grids into boundaries (in combination with financial derisking instruments) can
spatially diverse portfolios, or through the direct implementation of be effective in catalysing investments by addressing risks arising from
such initiatives. For instance, the United Nations Development policy uncertainty, before policies conducive to private sector invest-
Programme (UNDP), Global Environment Facility (GEF), Climate ment can stabilise and take effect. Second, aggregation of projects can
Bonds Initiative (CBI) and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) act as an enabler for financial derisking instruments. Such instruments
are setting up the Climate Aggregation Platform (CAP) to facilitate do not address underlying barriers, but transfer them to public actors,
financial aggregation of distributed grid-connected renewable energy catalysing private sector investments in the short term. However,
generation sources by increasing information flow, developing stan- instruments such as loan guarantees and political risk insurance can
dardised toolkits (template contracts, performance metrics, transaction have high transaction costs, which can be justified by achieving larger
structures) and creating awareness via demonstration programs. investment scales through project aggregation.

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

6.4. Limitations and future research gies such as solar home systems, within and across different country
contexts. Finally, country case studies analysing the trade-off between
The results of our analysis indicate that aggregation and spatial risk diversification and increased transaction costs for different aggre-
diversification of renewable energy mini-grid projects can be effective gation strategies could help better inform policymakers about how to
in addressing investment risks and hence lowering the cost of finan- incentivise aggregation by lowering transaction costs efficiently.
cing. We demonstrate how the correlation of investment risks between
individual projects in a portfolio depends on geographic distances and Acknowledgements
jurisdictions. It is, however, a first attempt at estimating these effects,
and there are some promising avenues for future research on aggrega- We gratefully acknowledge the support of our interview partners.
tion and diversification of investments into rural electrification pro- We would like to thank Hande Bayraktar and Christoph Henrich for
jects. While this study has focused on spatial diversification, future their valuable inputs to this study. We would also like to thank
studies could investigate diversification across different technologies, participants of the INOGOV Workshop on “Climate Policy Innovation
business models, and project developers. Further, future research could and the Access to Clean Energy Technology in Developing Countries”
guide policymakers about the specific policy instruments and designs held on 27th May 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland, and two anonymous
required to enable aggregation of other rural electrification technolo- reviewers for their valuable feedback.

Appendix A

Table A1 provides an overview of private sector mini-grid developers active in India. The data has been collected from interviews, company
websites, and news articles. The relatively high activity of mini-grid developers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the prevalence of solar PV based
mini-grids has guided the research case selection presented in Section 3.1.
Table A2 provides an overview of some private sector investors with exposure in the mini-grid sector in India. The data has been collected
through interviews, company websites, news articles and industry reports.

Table A1
Sample of private mini-grid developers in India.

Mini-grid developer States active Technology System size (Nominal generation capacity in

Mera Gao Power Uttar Pradesh Solar PV 0.12–0.25

OMC Power Uttar Pradesh Solar PV, biogas, diesel 25–100
Naturetech Infra Uttar Pradesh Solar PV 1–3
Gram Oorja Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Solar PV 8–10
Husk Power Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand Biomass gasification, solar PV 1–35
Kuvam Microgrid Uttar Pradesh, Bihar Solar PV 1–3
Mesh Power Bihar Solar PV 1
DESI Power Bihar Biomass gasification, solar PV 0.5–30
Gram Power Rajasthan Solar PV 1–5
Mlinda West Bengal Solar PV 0.2–8

Table A2
Sample of investors in mini-grid enterprises in India.

Investor Investor type Investee

Campanille Impact Fund Venture Capital Gram Power

Vestergaard Fransen Angel Investor Gram Power
Tenshi Peak Angel Investor Gram Oorja
Khattar Holdings Angel Investor OMC Power
Energy Investment Tech Energy Investment Fund OMC Power
Pte. Ltd.
Acumen Equity Fund Husk Power
LGT Venture Philanthropy Impact Investor Husk Power
ICCO Investments Impact Investor Mera Gao Power
Insitor Impact Fund Impact Investor Mera Gao Power
DOEN Foundation Impact Investor SELCO
IFC International DFI Husk Power
Intellegrow Non-Banking Financial Husk Power
Company (NBFC)
IFMR Capital NBFC DESI Power
ICICI Bank Commercial Bank DESI Power

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

Appendix B

See Appendix Table B1

Table B1
Structured interview and survey questions used in the study.

Type Question

Scoring of risk categories On a scale of 1–5 (with 1 meaning unlikely and 5 meaning very likely), how would you rate the probability that the events
underlying the particular risk occur? Why?
On a scale of 1–5 (with 1 meaning low impact and 5 meaning high impact), how would you rate the financial impact of the
events underlying the particular risk, should the events occur? Why?

Rating of risk correlations across jurisdictions Imagine that the events underlying the particular risk occur in project A, resulting in a financial loss. On a scale of 1–5 (with 1
meaning no change and 5 meaning high increase), how would the probability of the events underlying the particular risk change
• for a project in the same district?
• for a project in a different district, but in the same state?
• for a project in another state?

Rating of risk correlations across geographic Imagine that the events underlying the particular risk occur in project A, resulting in financial loss. On a scale of 1–5 (with 1
distances meaning no change and 5 meaning high increase), how would the probability of the events underlying the particular risk change
• for a neighbouring project, less than 20 km away?
• for a project about 150 km away?
• for a project much further than 150 km?

Appendix C. Derivation of Eq. (3)

The risk premium for a portfolio of assets can be expressed in terms of the risk premia of the individual assets, the average risk correlation
between all the assets in the portfolio, and the number of assets in the portfolio. Starting with the equation for the variance of returns of a portfolio,
n n n
V (R ) = ∑ xi 2σi 2 + ∑ ∑ xi xj σi σj ρij ,
i =1 i j≠i (C1)
we make the following simplifications and assumptions:

• Each asset in the portfolio comprises an equal share of the total amount invested, i.e., xi =
for i ∈ {1,…, n}.

The variance of the returns of each of the assets in the portfolio is equal, i.e., σ f = σ 2 for i ∈ {1,…, n}.

• The risk premium is linearly proportional to the variance of returns, i.e., r = k (σ 2 − σ f2 ), where r is the risk premium, σ f2 is the variance of a mini-
grid investment in a low-risk environment.

Using these assumptions, we can rewrite Eq. (C1) as:

⎛ 1 ⎞2 2 n n
⎛ 1 ⎞2 2
V (R ) = ∑ ⎜⎝ ⎟σ + ∑ ∑ ⎜⎝ ⎟ σ ρij ,or
i =1
n⎠ i j≠i

⎛1 ⎞2
rp + kσ f2 = ⎜ ⎟ (n + n (n − 1) ρav )(r + kσ f2 )

1 ⎛ 1⎞ ⎛ 1⎞
rp = r + ⎜1 − ⎟rρav + kσ f2⎜1 − ⎟(ρav −1)
n ⎝ n⎠ ⎝ n⎠

Since the second term on the right hand side is always negative, we can write:
1 ⎛ 1⎞
rp ≥ r + ⎜1 − ⎟ rρav
n ⎝ n⎠

Appendix D

Table D1 shows the assumed loads for the village mini-grid. They have been adapted from the load profile used for a basic electrification scenario
by Blum et al. (2013) using inputs from interviews with mini-grid developers to suit the context of our case study. The resulting load profile for the
mini-grid is shown in Fig. D1.
Table D2 and D3 show the cost assumptions used for the LCOE calculations for the diesel and the solar PV based mini-grids. The nominal
capacity of the diesel generator is determined by calculating the peak load for the mini-grid and adding a safety margin of 20% to it. The capacity of
the solar PV module and battery is determined by optimizing their values such as the LCOE is minimized under the constraint that the system is
capable of meeting the demand in 90% of the cases.

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

Table D1
Assumptions for diesel mini-grid.

Load type Load Power Quantitya Usage

consumption duration
per day

Household Lamp (inside 6 2 18:00–00:00

Lamp (outside 6 1 18:00–00:00
Phone 5 1 18:00–23:00
Fan 10 1 18:00–23:00
Television 60 0.2 18:00–23:00
Productive use Refrigerator 36 1 00:00–24:00
Agricultural 1500 1 11:00–16:00
Water pump 250 1 11:00–16:00
Sewing 120 1 09:00–13:00
Social School 6 6 08:00–15:00
infrastruc- lighting
ture School fan 60 1 08:00–15:00
Street lamps 6 10 18:00–07:00

Quantities are expressed as number of loads per household for household loads and number of loads per village for productive use and social infrastructure.

Fig. D1. Assumed load profile for village.

Table D2
Assumptions for diesel mini-grid.

Parameter Value Source

Diesel generator cost (USD/kW) 550 (Blum et al., 2013; Palit et al., 2014)
Diesel generator size (kW) 5.8 Authors’ assumption
Diesel generator efficiency (%) 30 Manufacturers’ technical
Diesel price (USD/L) 0.66 Indian Oil Corporation website
(November 2016)
Annual change in diesel price 1.8 (NACS, 2014)
Diesel generator lifetime 50,000 (Kost et al., 2013)
(runtime in hours)
Low voltage distribution line 2500 (Palit and Chaurey, 2011)
cost (USD/km)
Low voltage distribution line 3 Interviews
length (km)
Distribution losses (%) 5 (Blum et al., 2013)
Connection and labour cost 20 Interviews
Operation and maintenance cost 0.02 (Kost et al., 2013)

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

Table D3
Assumptions for solar PV mini-grid.

Parameter Value Source

Solar PV Modules cost (USD/kW) 1200 Interviews

Solar PV module size (kW) 10 Authors’ assumption
Solar PV module lifetime (years) 20 (NREL, 2012)
Solar PV degradation rate (%) 0.5 (Jordan and Kurtz, 2013)
Battery cost (USD/kWh) 220 (Fürstenwerth and
Waldmann, 2014)
Battery size (kWh) 35 Authors’ assumption
Battery lifetime (years) 5 (Fürstenwerth and
Waldmann, 2014)
Battery roundtrip efficiency (%) 89.5% (Akhil et al., 2013)
Inverter cost (USD/kW) 200 (Akhil et al., 2013)
Inverter lifetime (years) 10 (NREL, 2012)
BOS (mounting structure, battery 20 Interviews
room, etc.) (% of system cost)
Low voltage distribution line cost 2500 (Palit and Chaurey, 2011)
Low voltage distribution line length 3 Interviews
Distribution losses (%) 5 (Blum et al., 2013)
Connection and labour cost (USD/ 40 Interviews
Operation and maintenance cost (% of 1.50 (Blum et al., 2013)
total investment)

Appendix E

Table E1 shows the mean ratings for the probability and impact of each of the risk categories discussed in Section 5.1, as well as the risk
premium above the cost of equity in a low-risk environment. Based on the interviewee ratings, we find that the risk categories contributing the most
to the high cost of capital for mini-grid investments are developer risk, financing risk, payment and credit risk, grid extension risk, and power
market risk. The high influence of developer risk and financing risk on the cost of financing is due to the early stage of the mini-grid market of the
country, and cannot be addressed effectively through spatial diversification. On the other hand, as discussed in Section 5.1, the effect of payment
and credit risk, grid extension risk, and power market risk can be reduced through spatial diversification (Table E2).

Table E1
Mean survey ratings for risk categories and calculated risk premia for a single mini-grid investment.

Risk Category Mean incremental probability rating (on a scale of 1–5) Mean financial impact rating (on a scale of 1–5) Risk premium [%]

Power market risk 2.08 3.58 1.2%

Grid extension risk 2.29 3.63 1.3%
Permits risk 0.95 1.90 0.3%
Social acceptance risk 1.68 3.32 0.9%
Technology sourcing risk 1.46 3.14 0.7%
Labour inputs risk 2.08 3.08 1.0%
Developer risk 3.00 4.50 2.1%
Payment and credit risk 2.58 3.75 1.5%
Financing risk 2.91 4.64 2.1%
Currency risk 2.06 3.22 1.0%
Sovereign risk 1.28 3.67 0.7%

Table E2
Average correlation ratings for risk categories by interviewees.

Risk category Governance level

District State National

Currency risk 0.96 0.96 0.96

Financing risk 0.93 0.93 0.79
Technology sourcing risk 0.67 0.67 0.63
Power market risk 0.92 0.75 0.48
Permits risk 0.78 0.66 0.50
Sovereign risk 0.65 0.45 0.25

Geographic distance
< 20 km 20–150 km > 150 km
Grid expansion risk 0.68 0.31 0.03
Social acceptance risk 0.61 0.32 0.14
Payment and credit risk 0.77 0.36 0.18
Labour inputs risk 0.68 0.68 0.68

A. Malhotra et al. Energy Policy 108 (2017) 657–672

Appendix F

Fig. F1 illustrates the results of alternate scenarios to that presented in Section 5.2, Fig. 5 (labelled here as “unsubsidized scenario”). The
“subsidized scenario” replicates the calculations for the “unsubsidized scenario”, and also assumes that the mini-grid developer avails of the 30%
subsidy offered under the Uttar Pradesh state mini-grid policy. The “debt scenario” models the impact of incorporation of debt in the capital
structure in addition to and as a result of the derisking effect of the investment subsidy and diversification. The remaining capital outlay after
availing of the subsidy is assumed to have a capital structure of 50% equity and 50% debt, with the cost of debt assumed to be 14%.

Fig. F1. Reduction in LCOE resulting from spatial diversification.

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