IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - 17

Current Solutions
Broadly speaking, there are two rural electrification models today. In developed countries, centralized power systems have been built in rural areas over the years with
long transmission and distribution lines. The infrastructure is aging. The costly system upkeep, lack of flexibility,
and reliance on largely fossil fuel-based power generation
are some of the reasons that the existing systems are not
sustainable. Renewable generation such as wind and solar
photovoltaics (PVs) is emerging but still constitutes a tiny
fraction of the generation mix.
In the developing world, off-grid diesel generation and
primitive distribution lines have been the most popular
alternative for rural electrification. (Some island areas in
developed countries, such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, also
rely on diesel generators but have a more mature distribution grid.) In the short term, diesel generation provides a
decent solution to meet the day-to-day electricity needs of
people living in rural and remote areas. There are some
advantages with diesel: it is modular, quick to set up, and
easy to operate. But for the long term, diesel generation is
not sustainable because it is expensive, less efficient, less
reliable, noisy, and polluting. Diesel generation is highly
sensitive to fluctuations in fuel supply and prices. Transportation safety is also a big concern.

Challenges Facing Current Systems

image licensed by ingram publishing

for farming, pumping, and food processing. For trade and
commerce, they need communication, transportation, and
finance. They also need 21st-century services such as distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband Internet. All
require electricity.
Technology advancements have been able to close the
gap between urban and rural infrastructures, thereby narrowing the difference between the standards of living. The
most recent examples are the wireless communication and
Internet technologies, which enable rural areas to skip the
traditional wired infrastructures and leap into the digital
wireless era. There is no doubt that the emerging technologies in renewable generation, the smart grid, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency will revolutionize rural electrification once again.

The biggest challenge for rural electrification is the high cost
associated with building and maintaining generation, transmission, and distribution lines. In the traditional centralized
power system, large generation plants are usually built near
urban population centers so as to reduce the cost of building
transmission lines. They are not optimally designed in terms
of size and location for geographically dispersed rural areas.
In many cases, the transmission lines simply pass through
rural areas without providing electricity to the communities
down below. Studies have shown that it typically costs millions of dollars per mile to build transmission lines and hundreds of thousands of dollars for distribution lines. The fossil
fuel-based power plants tend to be built as large as possible
to recoup the huge capital cost and make a profit for the
investors. Compared with urban and suburban areas, rural
areas have the fewest customers per mile and energy consumption and energy revenue per mile, providing few incentives for business development in rural electrification.
Because of these unfavorable economic factors, government
subsidies (and/or mandates) have been the primary resources for building rural electric infrastructure. When the subsidies are not available, rural people are left without electricity.
In most countries, electricity markets and policy mechanisms also play a critical role in influencing the end consumers' behavior and, in turn, the investment decisions by
the service providers on long-term infrastructures. Market
mechanisms work best when generation and demand
respond elastically to the pricing curve. Today, neither generation nor loads are dynamic enough to respond to pricing
IEEE Electrific ation Magazine / marC h 2 0 1 5

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015

IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - Cover1
IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - Cover2
IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - 1
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IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - Cover3
IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_june2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_march2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_june2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_march2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_june2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_march2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_june2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_march2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_june2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_march2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_march2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_june2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_march2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_june2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_december2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pes/electrification_september2013
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