Decentralized electrification and development

Some 1.2 billion people remain without electricity, i.e. 17% of the global population. Most of the problems in access to electrification are concentrated in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asian countries, where rural electrification rates are 17% and 78% respectively (for 99% in North Africa for instance). In these regions, people have no choice but to use time consuming, unreliable, environment-unfriendly and unhealthy solutions (wood, kerosene or battery lamps…).Ambitious projects to extend national utility grids all the way out to rural areas will have zero impact on this reality for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, a feature of these projects is an energy mix that relies heavily on fossil fuels, which rules them out as a solution for energy future. On the contrary, the development of renewables-based off-grid electrification solutions would appear to be the only viable solution in the near to medium term to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.The many private or public actors involved, the multiplication of initiatives and the lack of coordination between them make it impossible to identify and evaluate the many decentralized electrification solutions that have recently been developed or are emerging. This makes it impossible to have a clear vision of the respective merits of the various solutions on offer, which may also be wholly dependent on the geographical and institutional contexts that they are deployed in.The Véolia Institute and the Foundation for studies and researches on international development (Ferdi) published a special issue of FACTS Reports on Decentralized electrification and development edited by Jean-Claude Berthelemy, a Professor at the Paris 1 University and Victor Beguerie, a research Officer at Ferdi.This special issue of FACTS Reports does not claim to answer every question. Instead, it showcases a few real-life examples of decentralized electrification and suggests a few initial conclusions. The case studies are presented by the project leaders themselves. There are already a number of encouraging responses to questions of how to evaluate the impact of these field actions, although they remain mostly highly qualitative. Looking in detail at some of these experiments also highlights several key factors for the success of these endeavors. Identifying the technology most appropriate to the circumstances is far from the only factor and many other questions arise, such as prior identification of local people’s needs and requirements, alterations to the institutional and legislative framework, deployment of innovative finance and payment solutions for users (pay-as-you-go, microcredit), and the need to train the energy entrepreneurs who will carry out the installation and then provide maintenance and after-sales services. Mini-grids require a mode of governance, for what is a local public good, that is appropriate to the context and enables collective maintenance management and conflict resolution in the event of disputes about how this common resource is to be shared.This issue of FACTS Reports takes us on a journey from Laos to Rwanda, India to Madagascar and Uganda to Brazil, looking at real-life applications and offering us a geographical and technological overview of the solutions that are beginning to spread across areas of the developing world that still lack electricity.This issue lays the groundwork for identifying best practices: choice of technologies, organizational structure, funding method, and so on. This is a process that depends on increasing assessments of field experiences and understanding and comparing the various barriers and opportunities that characterize every situation. Identifying best practices is a necessary precondition to the transition to renewable energy sources that the whole world is demanding, for our energy future depends on such a transition—nowhere more so than in Africa.----Special Issue of FACTS Report "Decentralized electrification and development" also on et 

Berthelemy, J-C and Béguerie, V. (dir.) (2016) Decentralized electrification and development, Special Issue FACTS Report, Veolia Institute and Ferdi, Second semester 2016 (also in French :  Electrification décentralisée et développement).

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