|Boiling Point No. 45 - Low-cost Electrification for Household Energy (ITDG - ITDG, 2000, 44 p.)|
by Rona Wilkinson, IT Consultants, Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby CV23 9QZ, UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.
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.