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IFC Publishes Lessons Learned on Solar Energy

IFC Publishes Lessons Learned on Solar Energy

Published 09-07-07

Submitted by International Finance Corporation

MILAN - September 7, 2007 - IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today presents its lessons learned from investing in solar energy in emerging markets for more than a decade, at the 22nd European Solar PV Energy Conference. The study, entitled "Selling Solar," finds that, to be successful, investments in solar photovoltaic technologies must acknowledge different market segments and adapt products and financing accordingly. It also finds that most solar PV programs require subsidies to be viable. The study explains how IFC is moving toward supporting programs that deploy a mix of technologies, rather than solar PV alone.

IFC is committed to finding market-based solutions for rural electrification in emerging markets. In the mid-1990s, IFC initiated several solar PV activities, in partnership with other investors and donors including the Global Environment Facility. These efforts did not overcome all the complexities of the market. They provided valuable lessons of experience and case studies, which IFC has compiled in the publication.

Rachel Kyte, IFC Director for Environment and Social Development, said, "We hope these lessons will be useful to other investors looking to explore the nascent PV market in the developing world. We think that solar PV can make a significant contribution to addressing rural electrification issues, and that we can develop sustainable business models. The World Bank Group is the largest financier of solar PV businesses in the developing world. Supporting solar PV and renewable energy applications is an important component of our work to combat climate change and ensure sustainable energy access for the poor."

The study encourages PV companies to acknowledge the different segments in the market. For example, low-income consumers are often looking for a system that supports a single light source. Higher-income consumers, however, are probably connected to the power grid and looking for larger systems to ensure an uninterrupted power supply during outages.

The study recognizes that without some level of subsidy, solar PV in developing countries is often too expensive for the average rural consumer. While prices were forecasted to decrease between 2004 and 2006, they actually increased. Alternatives to solar, such as grid extension, often benefit from subsidization and political support.

The study notes that private equity is not the most appropriate mechanism for financing solar PV activities in the developing world. Returns on such investments are nonexistent, so flexibility in investment offerings is necessary.

While solar PV is a viable technical solution, it is not the only or preferred one, the study concludes. IFC is moving toward a broad approach to market-based solutions to rural electrification that supports a variety of technologies, including low-power lighting devices and distributed power generation. IFC is working on a number of market acceleration initiatives, including "Lighting Africa," which is looking at affordable off-grid lighting to replace fuel-based lamps.

"Selling Solar" is available on IFC's Web site at:

About IFC

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, fosters sustainable economic growth in developing countries by financing private sector investment, mobilizing private capital in local and international financial markets, and providing advisory and risk mitigation services to businesses and governments. IFC's vision is that poor people have the opportunity to escape poverty and improve their lives. In FY07, IFC committed $8.2 billion and mobilized an additional $3.9 billion through loan participations and structured finance for 299 investments in 69 developing countries. IFC also provided advisory services in 97 countries. For more information, visit

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International Finance Corporation

International Finance Corporation

The International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, is the largest multilateral provider of financing for private enterprise in developing countries. IFC finances private sector investments, mobilizes capital in international financial markets, facilitates trade, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to businesses and governments. From its founding in 1956 through FY06, IFC has committed more than $56 billion of its own funds for private sector investments in the developing world and mobilized an additional $25 billion in syndications for 3,531 companies in 140 developing countries. With the support of funding from donors, it has also provided more than $1 billion in technical assistance and advisory services.

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