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Electricity for development:: Mini-grid solution for rural electrificationin South Africa
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3449-2253
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2189-0105
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4589-7045
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8604-9299
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2016 (English)In: Energy Conversion and Management, ISSN 0196-8904, E-ISSN 1879-2227, no 110, 268-277 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The objective of most rural electrification programs in the developing world is to bring about socioeconomicdevelopment to households. Governments have put in place a number of measures to achievethis goal. Previous studies on rural electrification programs in developing countries show that solar homesystems and mini-grid systems are the dominant technologies. Assessments of a pilot hybrid mini-gridproject at Lucingweni village have concluded that mini-grid projects are not feasible due to high electricityproduction costs. As a result efforts toward rural electrification have been focused on the solar homesystem. Nevertheless, previous studies of the South African solar home system program have shown thatthe development objectives of the program are yet to be met more than a decade after commissioning.Therefore, this study investigates the viability of a hybrid mini-grid as a solution for rural developmentin South Africa. Investigations were based on Lucingweni and Thlatlaganya, two rural Villages where themini-grid and solar home system have been introduced. The mini-grid systems were designed taking intoconsideration available natural resources and existing load profiles. The results show that a village of 300households needs about 2.4 kW h/household/day of electricity to initiate and sustain income generatingactivities and that the solar home system is not capable of supporting this level of demand. We also showthat in locations with hydro resources, a hybrid mini-grid system has the most potential for meeting theenergy needs of the households in a cost effective manner. The assessment shows that with adequateplanning and optimization of available resources, the cost of electricity production can be reduced.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. no 110, 268-277 p.
National Category
Civil Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-30678DOI: 10.1016/j.enconman.2015.12.015ISI: 000369191400026ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84952359482OAI: diva2:890888
Available from: 2016-01-05 Created: 2016-01-05 Last updated: 2016-03-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sustainability and development impacts of off-grid electrification in developing countries: An assessment of South Africa's rural electrification program
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sustainability and development impacts of off-grid electrification in developing countries: An assessment of South Africa's rural electrification program
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Hållbarhet och utvecklingseffekter av off-grid elektrifiering i utvecklingsländer : En bedömning av Sydafrikas elektrifiering av landsbygden programmet
Abstract [en]

Previous studies have shown that provision of sustainable electricity supply to rural households is essential to bring development to off-grid populations. For this reason, most developing countries put large efforts into rural electrification programs to stimulate development and reduce poverty. However, to be sustainable these programs need to recover costs, which poses a challenge to remote low income populations.  This often forces governments and other institutions involved in rural electrification to subsidize the electricity production. It also affects the choice of technology and places a barrier on the level of energy provided in line with the ability to pay for services. As a result of this, most programs have failed to achieve the desired objectives, as the technologies used often do not support income generating activities that could increase the payment capabilities of the beneficiaries and contribute to development.

This thesis is focused on the rural electrification program of South Africa, the country in sub-Saharan Africa that has the highest access to electricity. It investigates the success elements that influence the sustainability of rural electrification programs and their contributions to socio-economic development. This was achieved by evaluating the South African program that provides solar home systems to off-grid communities, and a hybrid solar-wind mini-grid project in South Africa. The study also draw lessons from other rural electrification programs in neighbouring countries, i.e. an evaluation of a hybrid solar-diesel mini-grid system in Namibia, and a review of two systems, a hybrid solar-biomass mini-grid project in Botswana and a hydro mini-grid program in Lesotho. The study revealed that hydro based hybrid mini-grid systems provide the most cost effective way of bringing energy services to rural settlements. Regardless of technology, successful programs depend on adequate support from the government, implementation of a progressive tariff system that allows the high consuming high income earners and businesses, to cross subsidize the low consuming , low income users. It shows that it is more likely for rural electrification programs to survive if the design considers the existing businesses, population growth and the corresponding load increase. The thesis further shows that provision of sufficient energy to induce income generating activities is essential to decrease the need for subsidies and to ensure the sustainability of programs. In addition, availability of spare parts and a capable management team is essential for the successful operations and maintenance of these systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University, 2016. 65 p.
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 198
Off-grid electrification, sustainability, solar home system, hybrid mini-grid, renewable energy, technical challenges
National Category
Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering
Research subject
Energy- and Environmental Engineering
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-30762 (URN)978-91-7485-252-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-03-04, Gamma, Mälardalens högskola, Västerås, 09:15 (English)
Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-02-01Bibliographically approved

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