IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 78

to provide institutional support and policing to ensure that
disposal processes are developed and adhered to.
Sustainable off-grid systems require local expertise in the
technical and commercial aspects of the project. it is vital that
training institutions be created or expanded so as to build up
the proficiency of indigenous peoples in these areas.
finally, for efficient and effective administration, off-grid
rural electrification must be undertaken within the broader
context of integrated rural development. electrification
should be considered together with the provision of other
essential services such as clean water, health care, educa-
tion, and waste disposal.

Building Local Capacity
Projects supported from abroad often rely on pro bono
volunteer labor during the design and implementation
phases. an opportunity for local capacity building is
thus missed. Countries such as Kenya may have a small
yet vibrant and growing ecosystem of companies in the
small-scale, off-grid energy system space. forced to
compete with free labor from abroad, a "reverse out-
sourcing" effect occurs in which paid workers in Kenya
are replaced by volunteers from abroad.
Supporting indigenous companies builds local capac-
ity, which in turn improves project sustainability. main-
tenance and repair costs can decrease, as they can be
locally sourced, and the community may view a project
more favorably having participated in its installation.
only through building local capacity will the need for
foreign involvement end.

The Need for a Framework
this quick dive into the sustainability of rural, off-grid
electrical energy projects in developing communities has
revealed the breadth and complexity of the issues that can
threaten a project. With the combined experience and fore-
sight that engineers and other practitioners currently have,
there is no reason that future development should not strive
to meet sustainability expectations. unfortunately, despite
the progress made in achieving energy access over the last
two decades, sustainability is uncertain, and learning pro-
cesses are not yet in place to gather and disseminate robust
sustainability data. in other words, learning in this area is
both ad hoc and fragmented.
the need is clear: with so many sustainability consid-
erations and the high stakes of substantially improving
people's lives through development, there is an imperative
to develop a systematic framework to assist practitioners in
planning for and evaluating the sustainability of off-grid
development projects. the ieee Power & energy Society's
Working Group on Sustainable energy Systems for Devel-
oping Communities is in the advanced stages of developing
such a framework.

78

ieee power & energy magazine

The IEEE Working Group
Recently, the united nations set the year 2030 as a target date
for universal access to modern and sustainable energy services,
including electricity. With a "business-as-usual" approach, how-
ever, more than a billion people will still lack access to elec-
tricity in 2030. this is why the united nations has called for
the acceleration of the worldwide transfer of best practices. the
ieee Power & energy Society created its Working Group on
Sustainable energy Systems for Developing Communities-
among other initiatives-in response to this call to action.
the aim of the working group is to address the various
dimensions and issues associated with provision of elec-
tricity services to rural and remote areas and to provide
recommendations for decision makers. a key activity in
support of this aim is the creation of the aforementioned
sustainability framework.

Conclusions
in summary, small-scale, off-grid systems can provide access
to modest yet important levels of electrical energy to millions
of otherwise energy-impoverished people around the world.
up-front consideration of the key sustainability ingredients
described in this article gives these systems the best chance at
providing the greatest benefit over the longest time frame.

For Further Reading
Sustainable energy for all. (2013, oct. 29). Global track-
ing framework. [online]. available: http://www.se4all.
org/2013/10/29/se4all-global-tracking-framework/
R. Podmore, R. larsen, h. louie, P. Dauenhauer, W.
Gutschow, P. lacourciere, R. Parigoris, and S. J. Szablya,
"affordable energy solutions for developing communities,"
in Proc. IEEE PES Transmission and Distribution Conference and Exposition, 2012, pp. 88-106.
n. amin and R. langendoen, "Grameen Shakti: a renew-
able energy social business model for global replication," in
Proc. IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conf., oct.
2012, pp. 324-327.
R. larsen, R. Podmore, m. lacourciere, P. Ryan, D. G.
Welbourn, and D. Wessner, "the CSi story: ieee PeS Com-
munity Solutions initiative," in Proc. IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conf., oct. 2013, pp. 129-134.

Biographies
Henry Louie is with Seattle university, Washington.
Peter Dauenhauer is with the university of Strathclyde,
Glasgow, Scotland.
Michael Wilson is with the torchbearer foundation for
missions Reconciliation and Development, branson, missouri.
Adriaan Zomers is with alliander for CiGRÉ activities.
Joseph Mutale is with the university of manchester,
united Kingdom.
p&e

july/august 2014


http://www.se4all

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