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close this bookBoiling Point No. 45 - Low-cost Electrification for Household Energy (ITDG - ITDG, 2000, 44 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentTheme editorial: Low-cost electrification; the need for access to energy services
View the documentRural energy development: an integrated approach in Nepal
View the documentGaining ground in community micro-hydro power development in Kenya
View the documentRural electrification in Nepal: Experiences of an integrative social contextual approach
View the documentFuel for lighting; an expensive commodity
View the documentDemand side management for rural Nepal
View the document‘Micro-privatising’ rural power distribution - mass produced community development in Orissa, India
View the documentGTZ pages
View the documentElectricity for the Urban Poor
View the documentWindpower: Small is beautiful
View the documentManagement of sustainable photovoltaic solar energy in the semi-arid region of the State of Pernambuco, Brazil
View the documentTariffs for rural grid electrification
View the documentFrom candles to compact fluorescents
View the documentConsumer response to mobile solar water heating in the low-income sector, South Africa
View the documentClay Grate Development in Chibau Khera, India
View the documentWhat’s happening in household energy?
View the documentPublications & Letters
View the documentITDG energy news

Theme editorial: Low-cost electrification; the need for access to energy services

by Rona Wilkinson, IT Consultants, Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby CV23 9QZ, UK. Email:

Electrification as co accaux services dvde l’rgie

Environ deux milliards d’es humains n’ont pas acc’ctricitour satisfaire les besoins rgques de base et fournir l’rgie es activitproductives. Les systs dntralissont une autre alternative bassur les ressources hydrauliques, solaires, iennes ou l’utilisation de groupes ctrogs. Leur succest cependant conditionnar plusieurs facteurs non techniques notamment: l’intation avec d’autres projets de dloppement, l’luation des besoins, la gestion de l’rgie, le financement et l’appui institutionnel, la participation des communaut la capacit payer et le niveau des tarifs.

Introduction: Lack of access

Rural areas in developing countries have limited access to all types of services - health, clean water supplies, communication and roads. This is also true for the provision of energy services.

It is estimated that around two billion people do not have access to grid electricity; in sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of the population that is connected to the grid is between 4% and 25%, and the majority of those live in urban areas.

Why electricity?

Electricity can provide some of the fundamental energy services required by rural communities:

· at a domestic household level for lighting, radio and television, ironing, fans, etc.

· at a community level for clinics, schools, shops, and street lights

· for productive end uses and income generation through milling, crop processing, battery charging, workshop services

Options for supply of electricity

Electricity can be supplied through the grid or through decentralised schemes, where the source of the electrical power is located in a specific community or even in an individual household. In terms of the services provided, off-grid options are often limited to lighting and communication, especially for solar PV and systems that use batteries to supply electricity, as the amount of power they can produce is limited.

Critical success factors

Grid extension has traditionally been seen as the only way to deliver electricity to the population. Decentralised schemes are one alternative, and there are a number of success stories all over the world.

However, there are a number of aspects that have to be addressed for an off-grid scheme to be sustainable and successful.

These aspects for success include:

· Integration with other development projects

As described in the article by McMenemy, the most successful energy projects are those that are integrated with other development priorities and projects.

· Needs assessment and energy management

Irvine Halliday et al look at the importance of carrying out a proper energy needs assessment within a community.

· Financing options and institutional support

Rural Electrification schemes do require support at national, local and intermediary level.

· Community participation

The ownership of the plant can be by the community, by a small private business or through an individual. Rai gives examples of good community participation in Nepal and highlights the importance of involving all members of the community. Gitonga et al give a detailed case study of the steps involved in setting up a community hydro scheme in Kenya

Ability to pay and tariff levels

Harper makes an interesting comparison by looking at how community participation in grid connected villages has led to increased access to supplies.

The amount that the community is able to pay is crucial in ensuring the sustainability of the scheme. Mills sets the scene by discussing how much is already spent on lighting in rural areas. Prasad adds an interesting discussion point by asking why people still do not opt for electrical lighting.

Foley discusses various tariff structures that have been used and Forssman illustrates the importance of appropriate end use appliances such as energy efficient lightbulbs.

The articles all highlight the need for access to energy services in the developing world, and Piggott turns it full circle by talking about his decentralised electrification scheme in the Western World.