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Access to Electricity

Access to Electricity

Electricity is the lifeblood of development. It is inconceivable that populations and economies will develop without it. While access to electricity has grown in the last two decades, rural populations have largely been left out. This is particularly true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where rural the electrification rate is 18%; similarly, large parts of South Asia have only token access. Between these regions, more than 1 billion lack access to electricity.

It is clear that grid extension alone will not reach much of rural Africa in the foreseeable future; nor will the grid be able to supply adequate power to all areas in South Asia. Hence, the solution to electricity supply is likely to be mini grids, typically solar-powered.

And yet, electricity by itself does not change lives. It is what people can do with electricity that matters. Currently, the most that low-income rural populations can do with electricity, if they have access to it, is to power small LED lights and charge mobile phones. This is grossly insufficient for development and quality of life. The way forward is to have affordable, highly energy-efficient appliances like refrigerators, fans or other coolers, TVs and other ICT devices, medical devices, and mechanized tools for improving workplace productivity. Even as the cost of solar photovoltaics keeps steadily decreasing, a number of other major advances are necessary to generate, store, distribute and monetize the provision of sustainable electricity.

Access to Electricity

Electricity is the lifeblood of development. It is inconceivable that populations and economies will develop without it. While access to electricity has grown in the last two decades, rural populations have largely been left out. This is particularly true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where rural the electrification rate is 18%; similarly, large parts of South Asia have only token access. Between these regions, more than 1 billion lack access to electricity.

It is clear that grid extension alone will not reach much of rural Africa in the foreseeable future; nor will the grid be able to supply adequate power to all areas in South Asia. Hence, the solution to electricity supply is likely to be mini grids, typically solar-powered.

And yet, electricity by itself does not change lives. It is what people can do with electricity that matters. Currently, the most that low-income rural populations can do with electricity, if they have access to it, is to power small LED lights and charge mobile phones. This is grossly insufficient for development and quality of life. The way forward is to have affordable, highly energy-efficient appliances like refrigerators, fans or other coolers, TVs and other ICT devices, medical devices, and mechanized tools for improving workplace productivity. Even as the cost of solar photovoltaics keeps steadily decreasing, a number of other major advances are necessary to generate, store, distribute and monetize the provision of sustainable electricity.

Solar mini-grids: Electrifying rural households, businesses, and communities

Solar mini-grids offer the most widely applicable and viable mechanism to provide electricity for under-served rural areas of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where sunlight is abundant through most of the year. First, the policy environment in many countries has been increasingly supportive of renewable energy. Simultaneously, in the last decade, both the cost and availability of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has been steadily improving, and unlike a few years ago, solar power systems now are modular and scalable based on the needs of the users. Countries like India have many manufacturers who are capable of producing the necessary components at scale. More

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