Rural Off-Grid Electricity Generation for Communities in Africa

Our aim:

  • Our goal is sustainable and replicable electrification in rural East Africa, since reliable and affordable sources of energy are fundamental not only for wellbeing, but also for economic growth and poverty reduction.
  • We have devised a system to provide electrical services such as lighting and refrigeration to rural communities that do not have access to the national electricity network.
  • By engaging a sustainable business model, the community operated electrical installation is made economically viable and self-financing.
  • The installation is modular and is therefore easily replicable in other locations.

We argue that to implement sustainable rural electrification, three important components are required:

People: Engage the local community in determining their needs, aspirations and goals and assess the social, economic and cultural context of the community to identify the most appropriate system.

Product: Select technologies best suited for the local situation, based on the resources available and the wants and needs of the community.

Process: The introduction of energy systems must be accompanied by the development of business processes to allow sustainable replication, deliver social benefits and generate wealth for the community.

Please see our project pages for information on our six successful solar installations.

Project details

“Replication of Rural Decentralised off-grid Electricity Generation through Technology and Business Innovation” is a multi-institutional research programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC grant EP/G06394X/1). The aim of the project is to establish and implement easy-to-replicate, sustainable decentralized off-grid electricity generation which promotes development and improves wellbeing in rural communities in East Africa. The project is composed of a number of work packages:

Work Package 1: Baseline knowledge and analysis
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) will be used to map data including socio-economics, infrastructure and renewable energy resources

Work Package 2: Design, implementation, and monitoring
Two villages identified in WP1 will be selected for an electrification scheme in full consultation with the villagers. The solutions will be developed in parallel with a software-based decision tool to select the technical, economic, operation and maintenance options for a rural, renewable-based off-grid electricity generation project. The electrification schemes will be instrumented for remote monitoring of energy generation, consumption and system status.

Work Package 3: Business processes
Exploration of factors influencing scale, replication, and implementation of economically sustainable, socially-inclusive village electrification schemes.

Work Package 4: Demonstrating and verification of impacts in deployment projects
Social scientists will conduct surveys before and after deployment of the village electrification systems. Surveys will cover aspects of energy use in households and their links to health and wellbeing. Surveys will be carried out in control villages in addition to those selected for electrification.Work

Package 5: Assessing & evaluating the policy framework
Assessment of achievable policy changes that could be implemented to promote the provision of rural energy services.Work

Package 6: Training, education, capacity building and knowledge transfer
Use of the electrified villages as training centres for the off-grid electricity generation process from design to installation, commission and sustainable operation. Regional development workshops will be held and academic exchange conducted.

Work Package 7: Network development and dissemination
Formation of a network of interested parties in Africa and the UK (academic, industrial, governmental and non-governmental organizations), to be run in parallel with the project. The aim of the network is to build on the work of the proposed programme to enable collaborative research and project development addressing the needs of rural communities.

External web pages related to rural electrification

The Energy for Development Project is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Alliance for Rural Electrification

RETScreen International

HOMER Energy

Renewable World

Institution of Civil Engineers’ Toolkit for a Developing World

Project structure diagram
Inter-relationship between work packages in the project and the key aspects of people, product and process.

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