IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - 7

TEchNOLOGY LEaDErS

Rural Off-Grid Electricity Service
in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Henry Louie, Elizabeth O'Grady, Vincent Van Acker, Steve Szablya,
Nirupama Prakash Kumar, and Robin Podmore

CCESS TO ELECTRICITY IS A
money while steeply improving qualpersistent, endemic chality of life and supporting incomelenge impeding developgenerating activities.
ment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Decades
As an illustration, consider that
of postcolonial underinvestment have
1 kWh can power two light-emitting diresulted in just 80 GW of installed genode (LED) bulbs each supplying 90 lm of
eration capacity-less than that of the
high-quality lighting for about 100 days
United Kingdom-in a region with over
based on typical daily usage. A single860 million people. Of the 20 countries
wick-type kerosene lamp commonly
with the lowest elecfound in rural Africa
trification rates in the
would optimistically
Of the 20 countries
world, 19 are found in
consume about 2.5 L of
with the lowest
Sub-Saharan Africa,
fuel over the same peelectrification rates
where, on average,
riod at a cost of apin the world, 19 are
fewer than one in
proximately US$1.5/L,
three people have
while supplying lowfound in Sub-Saharan
access to electricity. In
quality lighting of perAfrica, where on
rural areas, electrificahaps 20 lm. In this exaverage less than one
tion rates plummet to
ample, which ignores
in three people have
less than 15%.
the health and safety
Although the stabenefits of electric
access to electricity.
tistics are desperate,
lighting, electricity
there are reasons to be
could be competitively
hopeful. Unencumbered by a legacy
priced at US$4.5/kWh or more-a rate
power grid, free from strict regulatory
nearly two orders of magnitude greater
oversight, and serving a customer base
than in parts of the United States.
that highly values even modest
The high value placed on electricity
amounts of electricity, rural Sub-Sahacoupled with the relatively dim prosran Africa is fertile ground to re-envision
pects of national grid expansion into
how electricity can be provided.
the most remote areas has spurred
Perhaps the greatest opportunity
innovation in technology and business
is the appealing value proposition
models for providing off-grid electrical
that electricity offers the rural villagservice. Sub-Saharan Africa has
er. Even modest amounts of electricibecome a hotbed for new energy
ty can save significant time and
entrepreneurs working in the space of
isolated rural microgrids, and the market potential is immense. The InternaDigital Object Identifier 10.1109/MELE.2014.2380111
Date of publication: 27 February 2015
tional Energy Agency estimates that

A

2325-5987/15©2015IEEE

additional investments of US$20 billion
per year are needed in rural off-grid
systems by 2030 to achieve universal
access to electricity. If realized, it could
mean that over 100 million people in
Sub-Saharan Africa would be supplied
electricity by some form of standalone energy system.

Stand-alone Electrical
System architectures
Figure 1 shows three common standalone electrical system architectures
that are distinguished by their energy delivery mode. Microgrids, sometimes referred to as "mini-grids," use
wired connections to serve multiple
customers in a limited geographic
area. Energy kiosks, also known as
"community charging stations," rely
on the physical transportation of
batteries to deliver the energy they
produce. Solar home systems (SHSs)
often serve a single household and
may or may not have an explicit distribution system.

microgrids
Microgrids can be implemented in a
variety of ways, with differing power
generation technologies, voltage
level and type (ac or dc), method of
distribution, and metering and payment systems.

Design Considerations
The most appropriate power generation technology for a microgrid
IEEE Electrific ation Magazine / march 2 0 1 5

7



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

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