What mechanisms are needed to monitor and evaluate the environmental, health and safety impacts of a mini-grid?

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Short Answer

Monitoring is a best practice for addressing environmental and social concerns and adapting to new conditions. Evaluation allows for analysis of monitoring and other data in order to understand the extent of environmental and social impacts. It will be vital to the success of a project to monitor the areas identified for risks during the assessment period. For instance, is the project employing women as anticipated? Is mini-grid construction resulting in soil erosion?

There are a number of methods, tools and approaches available to monitor and evaluate environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks associated with mini-grids. Examples include visual site inspections using monitoring checklists; water, air and soil quality testing; and mechanisms for community feedback (such as in-person stakeholder consultations and feedback through information communications technology).

Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms must be sufficiently robust without creating undue burden on the project. Throughout the life of the project, these mechanisms should monitor technical issues and stakeholder outcomes and perceptions. Monitoring must occur at regular intervals, and the results should be compared between intervals and with baseline conditions to assess impacts. Relevant EHS standards should also be compared to monitoring results to ensure that standards are met. USAID’s environmental compliance process outlines some required areas to monitor during project implementation. The monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for EHS impacts can be integrated into the broader project monitoring and evaluation plan. Third-party monitoring and verification may be required for some projects.

Putting it Into Practice

Monitoring indicators that track key EHS risks are an integral part of a mini-grid program. Monitoring systems must be integrated into project processes to ensure that results are utilized as part of a complete feedback loop.

The Annotated Questionnaire: Environmental, Health and Safety Risks can be used to identify and prioritize which risks to monitor. It also includes questions regarding stakeholders to engage, tools to utilize and the appropriate scale and frequency of monitoring.

USAID-funded projects typically have an Environmental Mitigation & Monitoring Plan (EMMP), which presents the mitigation actions that will be taken to satisfy findings of an environmental assessment, and specifies the parties responsible for the various mitigation, monitoring and reporting actions.

The Tracking Checklist: Environmental, Health and Safety Impact Management can be used to follow EHS requirements throughout the life of a project.

Resources

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (2013). Sustainable Development of Renewable Energy Mini-Grids for Energy Access: A Framework for Policy Design.
This report contains a section on monitoring and verification that addresses questions about the forms of monitoring and verification that should be required of mini-grid systems. Specific country examples are provided.

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative: Smart Grid Economic and Environmental Benefits (2013).
This report provides a review and synthesis of research on smart grid benefits and costs.

Union of Concerned Scientists (2017) Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy Technologies.
This article describes how renewable source of energy such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower also have environmental impacts.

USAID (2011). ENCAP Factsheet: Environmental Mitigation & Monitoring Plans.
This fact sheet explains USAID’s approach to environmental monitoring through the tool for EMMPs.

USAID (2008). Principles of Environmental Mitigation and Monitoring.
This presentation describes the principles of environmental monitoring that can be applied to mini-grid systems.

World Health Organization (2010). Monitoring, Supervisory, and Evaluation Tools for Community Based Initiatives.
This book provides a set of monitoring tools and approaches for community-based initiatives.

Last updated: February 13, 2018

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