IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 76

It is evident that the degrees of success in
electrification of rural communities vary from
country to country.

between two communities. While the feud was not directly
caused by the charging station, it was nonetheless a casualty
of the conflict.
engaging the community early will help determine if the
project supporter's goals are in alignment with the commu-
nity's desires. for example, a project might be financially
supported by an organization on humanitarian grounds,
based on the belief that when people are provided access to
electricity they will use it to power lights, sensibly replacing
the use of noxious, dangerous, and expensive kerosene. it
has been observed in some cases, however, that the energy
is instead used for televisions, portable DVD players, and
other luxury and entertainment goods, while kerosene is
still used for lighting. this "electricity repurposing" may be
disappointing for the project's benefactor, but it does have
social value. a year after installing one system, its owner
was interviewed. When asked if he had purchased additional
appliances, he responded that he now owns a color television
and he invites his neighbors over to watch soccer matches.
in this example, community and familial bonds have been
reinforced by electricity repurposing.
the anthropological effects of electrification are broad
and often surprising: changes have been reported in sleep-
ing patterns, the number of meals consumed per day, and
even the frequency of sexual activity on the part of married
couples, along with other documented effects. the nuances,
subtlety, and unpredictability of the sociocultural effects of
electrification are difficult to plan for, especially for orga-
nizations from abroad. for this reason, organizations such
as the ieee Power & energy Society's Community Solu-
tions initiative (CSi) require local nGo involvement for all
of their projects to anticipate issues that may occur and deftly
handle them when they do.

figure 6. Employee training in Bamenda, Cameroon
(photo courtesy of Michael Wilson).
76

ieee power & energy magazine

Organizational Sustainability
organizational sustainability touches on the human and
organizational capital required to set up and continuously
run off-grid energy service organizations. indeed, success-
fully addressing the global energy poverty problem more
broadly requires identifying and growing systems that pro-
duce these important inputs.
CSi currently has off-grid initiatives in Cameroon, haiti,
nigeria, and South Sudan, each of which utilizes a CCS
model. in this model, rechargeable portable battery kits of
approximately 17 ah are available to the community for a
monthly subscription fee. each 1.5 kW of PV capacity per
CCS translates into electricity access for about 450 people.
CSi's mission is to scale these systems so as to provide
modest amounts of electricity for a significant portion of
the world's rural poor. for 1 million people, this will require
more than 2,000 such systems. to achieve such scale will
take not only a production line to manufacture robust hard-
ware but also a business model with a substantial degree of
organizational oversight.
Creating an organizational structure not unlike those
adopted by the large, successful corporate franchise opera-
tions, in which technical and local operational training, cus-
tomer relations, maintenance, financial transparency, and
accountability are all highly codified, holds great promise.
but imbuing the proper corporate culture across the cadre of
indigenous local operators, who are functioning in an envi-
ronment where favoritism and corruption is more the norm
than the exception, brings with it additional training and
operational challenges.
to adequately prepare and operate such a distribution
of microutilities requires the establishment of a set of
standard operating procedures implemented by a cadre of
educated, motivated, and dedicated operators. from expe-
rience, observation, and the existing literature, it is clear
that this is best achieved when the business at hand is man-
aged by owner-operators.
to establish local skills, CSi's haiti projects imple-
mented an intensive training program with indigenous
microutility entrepreneurs. Predeployment education in
the areas of site selection (field survey and community
qualifications); operation, maintenance and troubleshoot-
ing; system protection and security (dealing with weather,
lightning, vandalism, and so on); customer service, rela-
tions, and expectations; bookkeeping, tariff collection,
and banking; and ethics, transparency, documentation, and
july/august 2014



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