IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 27

Context, Challenges, and
Obstacles in Rural Electrification

T

The World Bank, idenTifies, as The main World challenge in The energy
sector, the need to make more energy available at affordable prices to enable all people to use modern energy
to meet their basic needs, given that about 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity today. many
challenges present themselves, particularly those regarding electricity supply to rural and remote areas in the
developing world that still lack it. There is a rather large difference between the challenges facing electrification in countries with a mature electric infrastructure and in developing economies. in most countries with
a mature electric infrastructure, access to electricity is taken for granted, though utilities are grappling with
the challenge of connecting a variety of distributed generators to existing distribution grids while maintaining the security of supply. generally speaking, the consumer base is well educated, services are relatively
affordable, and the relationship of the utilities with their customers is usually well developed.
in the developing world the situation is very different. The efforts of power utilities and other stakeholders in these countries are directed toward providing access to reliable electricity services in unelectrified
or poorly electrified areas and coping with the problems poor communities face covering the costs of such
services. moreover, potential customers in developing areas have a limited knowledge of modern energy
services and uses. in such countries, access to electricity must preferably be planned as one component of a
rural development process and in combination with other infrastructure and educational services.
This article aims to shed some light on the various aspects of access to electricity, on the efforts under way
to increase access for the remaining 20% of the world population still without modern energy (see figure 1),
and on the challenges and obstacles regarding the electrification of rural and remote areas.

Energy for Development
in 2000, the international community, through the United nations, agreed on certain millennium development goals (mdgs). These are made up of a number of development objectives, including cutting in half the
number of people in the developing world living in poverty, improving the health situation, reducing child
mortality, and making the benefits of new technologies available. The development community has long been
aware of the importance of modern energy for the achievement of the mdgs and for the improvement of the
living conditions of rural communities. But despite growing recognition, further mainstreaming is needed.
all social and other objectives of rural and remote area electrification must be made clear because of the
inherent implications for the technical features and the financial dimensions of the electrification program. in
the past, some donor countries focused their assistance primarily on the needs of the poorest segments of rural
communities. The poor use electricity mainly for lighting and perhaps for a radio or TV. But their consumption
also results in inefficient loads. it is important to emphasize that better lighting and similar benefits, though
important for households, do not really contribute to the alleviation of poverty. it is more important, in terms
of sustained poverty alleviation, that socioeconomic development take place simultaneously. for demand
development, economic growth, and the creation of employment, entrepreneurs and the middle class are of the
utmost importance. recently, the approach that narrowly targeted energy access for the poor has given way to a
broader demand-side approach, with a much greater emphasis on power for productive uses. such an approach
promotes the development of commercial activities and local industries. it is only through the uptake of energy
services and their application by end users that energy supply can have any impact on achieving the mdgs. as
the provision of an energy supply infrastructure does not automatically lead to the uptake of energy services, an
understanding of the socioeconomic context is crucial to achieving the desired objectives.
The electrification of rural and remote areas is potentially a desirable investment, but there has been
considerable discussion about the socioeconomic and other benefits as well as the costs of the electrification
july/august 2014

ieee power & energy magazine

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover1
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover2
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 1
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover3
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover4
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