IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 60

It Takes a Village
By Guillermo A. Jiménez-Estévez,
Rodrigo Palma-Behnke, Diego Ortiz-Villalba,
Oscar Núñez Mata, and Carlos Silva Montes

T

The World Bank, one of The mosT imporTanT
supporters of rural electrification projects, estimates that
approximately 1.2 billion people do not have regular access
to electricity. in latin america as a whole, according to
the international energy agency, the electrification rate
has reached 92.3% but that still leaves 33.8 million people without access to electricity (see figure 1). They live
mostly in rural and isolated areas that are often neglected
by electrification projects due to the high associated costs
and technical difficulties.
many of these projects are, in fact, often tied to a single
energy source (e.g., diesel, hydro, or solar) and supply only
a single dwelling or a small village. such supply solutions
depend heavily on weather conditions, transportation constraints, and resource availability, with a consequent lack
of reliability and security. The World Bank also identifies
these projects as turnkey systems, with little or no community involvement, that often suffer from technical problems
soon after installation due to a lack of local capabilities and
proper maintenance procedures.

The World Bank argues that technical problems reduce
the benefits of off-grid investments, citing evidence from
places such as Vientiane province in laos where, after
only a few years of operation, more than 80% of solar
home systems (shss) were not working properly. another
documented case comes from Thailand, where 59 micro
hydroelectricity systems were implemented but only 25
remain in operation due to poor maintenance procedures.
similar results have also been seen in Chile, where statistics held by the national system in charge of investment
in electrification projects in remote areas show that the
diesel generation equipment used by these projects has an
average life span of three years before it must be replaced.
Community participation has been recognized as a powerful tool for the maintenance and operation of systems that
serve the community itself. The U.s. agency for international
development (Usaid) program "making Cities Work" also
promotes the idea that community participation builds support, provides a sense of ownership, increases sustainability, and reduces maintenance costs. in this context, there is

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2014.2317419
Date of publication: 17 June 2014

60

ieee power & energy magazine

1540-7977/14©2014IEEE

july/august 2014



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