IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 33

opportunities for off-grid power systems and include PV
systems (see figure 3), wind turbines, biomass-fueled
combined-heat-and-power units, hybrid systems, storage
facilities, and fuel cells. The off-grid category also includes
individual shss, portable battery kits, and similar solutions
for satisfying initial electricity needs.
developing country governments are increasingly focusing
their energy policies on the deployment of locally available
renewable energy resources for the electrification of rural and
remote areas. The driving forces behind this shift include the
emergence of effective decentralized power systems, volatile
fossil fuel prices, financial and environmental pressures, and
the increased opportunities for support by the donor community. moreover, many developing countries already feature a
limited generation capacity and a weak electric infrastructure.
grid-based rural electrification is a problem for these weak
systems, and it is therefore significant to stimulate decentralized power generation with or without grid connection.
one way to unburden the national budget dedicated to the
realization of the electric infrastructure is to unleash rural
financial resources and entrepreneurial capacities with support from the donor community. over the past few decades,
however, many governments, national power utilities, and
donors in developing countries have not been very responsive to initiatives by private and community-based smallscale electricity providers to help electrify rural and remote
areas using decentralized solutions. most of these initiatives
have been developed by ngos and similar organizations
and financially supported by only a few donors.
in the context of energy poverty alleviation, the current
development policy of many donors and development organizations focuses on the deployment of renewable energy
resources in developing countries. against this background,
the electrification of rural and remote areas offers scope
for appropriate domestic and donor funding, together with
local private-sector investments, although nontraditional
approaches are needed. The aim of all support should be the
enhancement of emerging initiatives from local communities and individuals rather than their development by foreign
participants. on the global scale, various activities in support of small-scale electricity enterprises are currently being
organized by development banks, United nations organizations, ngos, industries, and dedicated foundations.
experience with a number of projects has revealed that
local entrepreneurs and community organizations can deliver
contributions to both off-grid and grid-connected electricity
services for rural populations. But the experience gained in
the course of these projects has also revealed a number of
obstacles. The most significant obstacles regarding the development of small-scale providers include the lack of a sound
legislative and regulatory environment, the lack of standard
power purchase agreements and feed-in tariffs, poor entrepreneurial capacity, lack of knowledge and skills, and limited access to financing for both entrepreneurs and end users.
for small-scale electrification projects to be successful,
july/august 2014

assistance to project developers and the engagement of
the local community are needed. Because banks and other
financing institutions perceive these small-scale initiatives
as bringing high risks, particular attention must be paid to
risk assessment that addresses local political circumstances,
the expected load factor, revenue collection, tariff setting, the
affordability of the electricity to the local population, and
local willingness to pay.
Policies aimed at stimulating small, decentralized, investor or community-owned power systems will have an impact
on utility operations. The operational challenges connected
with decentralized power systems are diverse and substantial. national utilities must often create new relationships with local initiatives and groups and assist with new
approaches to the provision of technical and other support.
individual power systems such as shss and communitybased systems can help to substantially increase access to
electric services in the next decades. further technical innovation and cost reduction are necessary, though real technological breakthroughs are unlikely. ongoing technical innovations
for both central grid systems and decentralized systems have
been discussed at the international council on large electric
systems (cigrÉ) events over the last few years, however. for
grid-based rural systems, innovations have included electronic
devices applied to weak networks or single-wire earth return
(sWer) lines to improve power quality, single-to-three-phase
converters, and multiple reclosers linked with supervisory
control and data acquisition systems. for power systems with
local generation, new concepts have included small PV-battery
systems (fewer than 1 kW), energy management systems, and
power and voltage control devices.
in the industrialized world, with its mature power infrastructure, the issue of smart grid technology is currently an
important topic. The question presents itself whether such
advanced technology can help expand access in developing
countries with their immature and often absent rural electricity infrastructures. it would seem that future rural electricity
supply systems in developing countries could benefit from
some of the advanced technologies, including information

figure 4. A solar-diesel hybrid station (photo courtesy of
Ergon Energy).
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
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover3
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