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close this book Boiling Point No. 32 - January 1994
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Rural Electrification in Tanzania

by Bjorn Kjellstrom, SKI, Jarntorget 84, Box 2142,10314 Stockholm, Sweden.

The electrification of rural villages and townships in developing countries can seldom be justified on financial grounds. This is particularly

true where uniform electricity tariffs are applied in rural and urban areas, and where the domestic use of electricity is subsidized by tariffs where the price paid per unit is much lower than the mar ginal generation cost.

One of the benefits which donors often seem to expect from rural electrification, and which is brought forward as a justification for the financing of projects, is the reduced use of biomass as a cooking fuel.This is supposed to yield direct benefits for women, who will no longer have to spend much of their time collecting and carrying fuelwood, and will be subject to less smoke exposure during cooking. Electrification is also supposed to provide environmental benefits in the form of less deforestation, as a result of the reduced demand for fuelwood.

The SKI evaluation in Tanzania shows clearly that these expectations are based on wishful thinking, and an incomplete understanding of the structure of probable electricity use in rural townships and villages. The fact is that electrification has caused very few families to switch from fuelwood or charcoal to electricity for cooking. The attraction of electric lights at night may even have caused migration to the electrified towns.

A low income is an important obstacle to electrifying a home, not only because the connection fee charged by the utility, as well as the installations in the house, is beyond the reach of the majority of the families; but also because the electricity company requires that the house is of a certain standard for connection. As a consequence, only about 10 per cent of the households in the electrified rural towns and villages are actually connected, even ten years after electrification. Also, for electrified households, the investment required for an electric stove and appropriate cooking utensils remains an obstacle to electric cooking.

Table 1 shows the distribution of cooking energy use for electrified and non-electrified households.

Table 1. Energy sources used for cooking in electrified towns and villages in Tanzania

Energy source

Electrified households

Non-electrified households



8I %










This report first appeared in Renewable Energy for Development, Volume 5, Number 1.