A mapping of decentralised electrification projects

FERDI is mapping decentralised electrification projects and analysing their impact on economic development and poverty reduction.

Under the direction of Jean-Claude Berthelemy (University of Paris 1/FERDI), FERDI has developed a database of decentralised electricity projects and their effects: the COSMMA database (Collaborative Smart Mapping of Mini-grid Action).

Database CoSMMA (Collaborative Smart Mapping of Mini-Grid Action)

Since its creation in 2017, this database has been gradually expanded. Today it lists 125 research papers, covering 403 projects and identifying 2,712 effects of these projects.

For each project, the database lists :

  • technical/economic: the energy source, the power of the installations, any problems, the price at which the electricity is sold and its cost
  • geographical: location and population concerned
  • level: from local to multi-national, at which the project was decided and implemented.

The database has been available online since November 2019: See

Use of the database by meta-analysis

The objective of the meta-analysis of the CoSMMA database is to determine which characteristics of decentralized electrification projects are most likely to have positive impacts on sustainable development.

4 main characteristics were selected for this analysis: technology (source or energy), system size (power), decision-making level (local to national), and geographical location.

This analysis is in the exploratory phase but the first results highlight the roles of the energy source and the size of the system (See: Berthelemy J-C, Millien A. (2018) "Impact of decentralized electrification projects on sustainable development: A meta-analysis", FERDI Working paper P240, November).

Collaboration with WAEMU

For WAEMU, FERDI has published a report on the assessment and prospects for decentralized electrification in the WAEMU region. The conclusions of this report were published as a working document (Berthelemy J-C., Nossek V. (2018) "Decentralized electrification in WAEMU: lessons from experience and recommendations", FERDI Brief note B182, December 2018).

The publication of this report resulted in a collaboration with ECREEE (ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency).

Collaboration with Électriciens sans frontières

This collaboration began in 2016 with the publication of the special issue of FACTS Reports (Berthelemy, J-C and Béguerie, V. (dir.) (2016) Decentralized electrification and development, Special issue of FACTS Report, Institut Veolia and FERDI, Second half of 2016) on decentralized electrification. The aim was to carry out an impact assessment of the "café lumière" project, which consists of creating solar kiosks to provide electrical services to households, craftsmen, and local communities.

Cooperation with CLUB-ER

Initial results from the satellite data approach show that about half of the mini-grid projects implemented so far have not resulted in any significant impact. This is confirmed by some work using other methods, including a count of mini-grids that have failed a few years after being commissioned, and discussions with NGOs in the sector and African rural electrification agencies. At a time when mini-grids are seen as the most promising solution for rural electrification in remote areas, this finding is alarming, especially as the projects that work show large-scale effects.

It is therefore essential to identify the blocking factors, which may be linked to an unsuitable economic model (e.g. oversized generators), or poor project governance (e.g. a top-down approach that neglects the expectations of beneficiaries). The partnership between FERDI and the Club-ER will make it possible in 2022 to deepen these analyses by accessing field data via the Club-ER member agencies.

Achievements 2021-2022

Measuring the impact of decentralized electricity projects. In 2021, FERDI developed a method to use night-time light data, which is known to be correlated with human activity, to assess the economic changes observed after the start-up of a mini-grid in remote rural localities. 

This approach, given its innovative nature, required much discussion with peers. Successive versions were presented at events organised by the Chairs for Energy and Prosperity, Climate Economics, and Industrial Economics of Emergence in Africa, but also by AFD, IRENA and GDN and discussed with various European and African researchers. It also gave rise to in-depth discussions with the Club-ER (the African association of rural electrification agencies which includes more than 30 countries), several of these agencies, and French NGOs. 

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