Sustainable energy is a key resource
in ensuring continued growth and development of any economy. The inclusion of access to affordable
and sustainable energy as part of UNDP’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development signifies the urgency of universal energy access. Ensuring
reliable, clean and affordable energy to all results in increased productivity
and improved access to basic amenities. 1 However, more than
1.1 billion of the world’s population do not have access to electricity. Majority
of this population live in rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South
America. This limited access to electricity impacts the quality of life within
these rural area. This ultimately hinders the ability of the country to progress
as a nation.
While several governments in developing countries are
working towards increased electrification, their policies focus on extension of
the centralised grid. However, low population density resulting in a relatively
poor customer base causes high cost of infrastructure and maintenance per
customer discourages rural electrification. Another challenge is the generation
capacity tends to fall below total connected loads. This creates the need for
off-grid solutions in developing countries which unfortunately face various
This research seeks to investigate the technical and
economic characteristics of a sustainable project. Given the skills and
expertise required to operate and maintain an electrical network are limited,
the demand for simple and cost effective solutions allowing for supply and
distribution of electrical energy is significant. Research and investigation
into existing solutions and potential solutions to the challenges presented
allows for a better understanding into the effectiveness of the way in which these
challenges are tackled.
The key objective of
our research is to assess sustainable energy systems implemented in developing
countries in order to determine what qualities are key for a successful
project. Our primary focus is on the technical and economic characteristics
that influence the overall performance of the project.
We will investigate the economic feasibility of the different
electrification solutions. From an economic perspective, we will focus on four areas:
Infrastructure, financial constraints, financial sustainability and government
policy. Understanding the successes and failures within each area allows for an
effective economic evaluation.
In order to achieve sustainable energy access, it is
important to consider the economic situation and subsequent challenges that characterise
developing nations. Such economies have low GDP therefore limited capital for
infrastructure. The adopted
electrification solutions need to be cost-effective with minimum operation and
maintenance costs. A crucial factor in relation to any electrical system is not
just initial funding and implementation cost but financial sustainability.
Investigating how sustainable a technology is in terms of maintenance, energy
transportation cost and security gives insight into the overall viability of
We will investigate
the available financial and institutional support, initial customer costs and tariffs
compared to the economic situation of the community as we consider the
performance of the energy system in the case study. 2 The following
questions would be considered:
Was the project economically viable i.e. able to
secure sufficient financing?Is the implemented project financially sustainable
over the long-term?What mechanisms or subsidies were put in place
to ensure operation and maintenance costs remain affordable over time? Which
business models have been successful?What are the potential financial risks given the
economic situation of such communities?Is government policy ensuring that the country
is utilising the available resources effectively? Are the present regulations
favourable to the technology used? Government policy or lack of it contributes
heavily to the success of any technology.
Once these questions are considered for each case study,
informed financial recommendations can then be made to ensure cost-effective
Our research project will take the case study approach as we
are primarily interested in comparisons that can identify reasons for success
or failure of particular solutions. We will focus on specific on-going or
finished projects within similar contexts and assess the similar themes and
results. We will carry out a comparative investigation between the projects in
order to determine how and why certain solutions work or fail.
Selection of appropriate case studies requires careful
consideration to ensure proper analysis is carried out. The cases ought to be
relevant, contextual and have accessible data as document analysis will be our
major source of data. 3
Development Programme, “UNDP SUPPORT TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SUSTAINABLE
DEVELOPMENT GOAL 7,” UNDP, New York, 2016.
R. C. a. F. L. Sarah
Feron, “Rural Electrification Efforts Based on Off-Grid Photovoltaic Systems
in the Andean Region:Comparative Assessment of Their Sustainability,” MDPI
– Sustainability, vol. 9, no. 10, pp. 1-4, 2017.
“Comparative Case Studies, Methodological Briefs: Impact Evaluation 9,”
UNICEF Office of Research, Florence, 2014.