IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - 24

PV should be able to meet 100% of the electricity need. The
DG integration costs will be lower if the distributed PV can be
evenly distributed along the feeder and sized to be comparable with the loads.

Case Study 2: PV Microgrids in
Developing Countries
A recently published United Nations Foundation report
assessed the current state of rural microgrid best practices
in developing countries. The research team visited
12 microgrids in India, Malaysia, and Haiti and interviewed
seven developers. The report concludes that while "adequately financed and operated microgrids based on renewable and appropriate resources can overcome many of the
challenges faced by traditional strategies of extending the
central grid, these projects can enter into virtuous or
vicious cycles." It further concludes that "best practice with
respect to design is that developers should not design the
system based on pure technological considerations, but
instead adapt to the specific social and economic characteristics of the rural community."
These rural microgrids typically provide electricity services with limited power and duration. In one example, the
standard microgrid service is two compact fluorescent
lights and one cell phone per household. A similar
microgrid project in India provides 6 h of street-lighting and
charging services using PV and battery backup systems. In
this project, the levelized cost of electricity of the PV-battery
microgrid was estimated to be US$0.64/kWh compared
with US$1.35/kWh for diesel generation. The rural
microgrids are still expensive but are cheaper than the
alternatives. They are usually subsidized by governments or
nongovernment organizations. These microgrid projects
provide bare minimum services in remote rural places
where the centralized grid is not available or electricity is
not reliable even when there is centralized grid.
But it can be better. The model rural electric system proposed earlier should be self-sustainable from both an energy
resource and economic perspective. The prices of PV, battery,
lighting, energy-efficient appliances, and communication are
all coming down rapidly, leveling the playing field for rural
communities. In addition to technologies and financing, education is the key. The local community members will need to
learn and grasp the working knowledge of electricity generation, distribution, and balancing the load. They will need to
be savvy enough to operate and maintain the microgrid just
like the skilled workers in large utilities. And finally, they will
need to have the pride to keep the lights on.

Looking Forward
This is an exciting time for rural electrification. Recent
innovations in renewable generation, energy efficiency, and
grid modernization offer tremendous opportunities for the
development of new rural electric infrastructures that will
leapfrog the traditional centralized power systems, much
like the way digital networks leapt over the plain old

24

I E E E E l e c t r i f i c ati o n M agaz ine / marCh 2015

telephone system during the telecom boom in the 1990s.
The abundance of sun, wind, water, and land resources in
rural areas, combined with these new methods of
generating, storing, delivering, and consuming energy, hold
the promise that rural areas are not only able to meet their
own electricity demand through local generation but are
also able to export surplus energy to urban areas wherever
necessary. Further research, development, demonstration,
and deployment will be needed, however, because rural
electrification is a complex multidisciplinary problem that
requires a proper balance of technology, market mechanisms, human capital, and effective regulatory policies. But
there is no question that rural electrification will undergo a
generational transformation into a more reliable, affordable,
and sustainable state in which new technologies and new
business models are fully embraced.

Disclaimer
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official
policy or position of any agency of the U.S. government.

For Further reading
National Academy of Engineering (NAE). (2014, Nov.). Greatest
engineering achievements of the 20th century. [Online]. Available: www.greatachievements.org
International Energy Agency (IEA). (2011, Nov.). World energy
outlook 2011. [Online]. Available: www.worldenergyoutlook.
org
NRECA. (2014, Nov.). Co-op facts and figures. [Online]. Available: http://www.nreca.coop/about-electric-cooperatives/
co-op-facts-figures/
D. J. C. MacKay, "Solar energy in the context of energy use,
energy transportation and energy storage," Philosoph. Trans. R.
Soc. A, vol. 371, p. 20110431, July 2013.
T. l. Mai, D. Sandor, R. Wiser, and T. Schneider, "Renewable
electricity futures study: executive summary," National
Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Tech, Rep. NREL/TP6A20-52409-ES, 2012.
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), "Annual energy outlook 2014 (AEO2014)," Tech. Rep. DOE/EIA-0383, May 2014.
E. Shlatz, N. Buch, and M. Chan, "Distributed generation
integration cost study: Analytical framework," California Energy Commission, Tech. Rep. CEC-200-2013-007, 2013.
GridWise Architecture Council, "Gridwise transactive energy
framework DRAFT version," Tech. Rep. PNNL-22946, Oct. 2013.
D. Schnitzer, D. S. Lounsbury, J. P. Carvallo, R. Deshmukh, J.
Apt, and D. M. Kammen. (2013, Feb.). Microgrids for rural electrification: A critical review of best practices based on seven
case studies. UN Foundation Rep. [Online]. Available: http://
www.energyaccess.org/resources/key-documents
A. Skumanich, K. Polsani, P. Loka, S. Fulton, S. Reddy, S. Moola,
and S. P. Singh, "A microgrid case study: Lessons learned from a
rural electrification project in India," in Proc. Renewable Energy
World Conf. Expo, Orlando, FL, Nov. 12-14, 2013, p. 20.

Biography
Guohui Yuan (Guohui.Yuan@ee.doe.gov) is with ManTech
International, supporting the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, Washington, D.C.


http://www.greatachievements.org http://www.nreca.coop/about-electric-cooperatives/ http://http:// http://www.energyaccess.org/resources/key-documents

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