HomeResourcesConference PapersRural electrification on the African continent – examples and lessons learnt

Rural electrification on the African continent – examples and lessons learnt

Conference: The West African Power Industry Convention
Location: Abuja, Nigeria
Presenter: Andreas Wiese
Abstract: Presented by Andreas Wiese at The West African Power Industry Convention

Still an estimated two billion people on earth are lacking the direct access to energy services. Africa is the world region with the highest rate of non electrified areas, all of them with a rural, agricultural structure.

Lack of access to energy in rural areas is of same order of magnitude as lack of access to other types of infrastructure. In fact, it is often the same rural or urban poor who lack access to modern energy services, electricity, modern telecommunications, clean water and other basic services. This interdependency is obviously part of the problem (high service costs versus low ability to pay due to low income), but may also be part of future solutions.

Expanded access to energy services is inexorably linked to today s transforming energy sector. The expected benefits from electrifying rural areas are in summary as follows:

  • improved living standards (amenities and services)
  • rnegative impact of energy use on health and local environment
  • increased employment (direct & indirect) on supply side (energy service delivery chain) and on demand side (rural industries, productive uses)
  • synergy benefits (synergy due to bundling of services).

The proposed paper will provide with an overview of the current stage of the electrification in Africa and then focus on the particularities of rural areas and their electrification (e.g. affordability, access to energy resources, current energy consumption options, price of energy, hazards to health and environment).

Nowadays, new technologies for off-grid rural electrification, based on the utilisation of renewable, locally available energy sources promise environmentally benign access to electricity at a lower cost than conventional technologies. Renewable energies are therefore playing in increasing importance in all rural electrification programmes. Thus, the presentation will also provide an overlook of the current status of use of renewable energies in Africa as a whole.

Successful rural electrification projects will have to develop viable business plans for both the supply side (service delivery chain) as well as the demand side (rural industries, productive uses). The main types of emerging service delivery mechanism which are fulfilling such a requirement are:

  • Decentralised virtual utilities,
  • Local electricity retailers,
  • Energy equipment dealers and
  • Creative concessions.

Examples of rural electrification projects from current and past projects including typical applications of the above mechanism will be presented and lessons learnt be formulated. Technologies to be covered are hybrid systems and solar home systems, compared to rural electrification via grid extension