School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
About 1.4 billion urban and rural households around the world remain without electricity access today. 85% of these households are in rural areas and find it geographically challenging to beneﬁt from grid-connected electricity for power supply. In the developing countries, rural areas mainly rely on inconvenient non-commercial resources like wood, agricultural residues etc. as sources of power generation. Hence, Off-Grid power, which can be generated on-site from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass, plays a major role for the future of rural electrification world-wide. To achieve universal access of electricity, International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2030 about 171 TWh of Off-Grid electricity will need to be generated for providing power to approximately 210M or 20% of total rural households. This paper focuses on understanding the implementation and impact of three Off-Grid renewable energy systems in three different developing countries. Two of them are successfully implemented and the other is currently under implementation. The fully implemented Off-Grid systems selected for this paper are “Off-Grid Rural Electrification-Ladakh” in India and “Off grid Solar Power System for a rural village” in Malaysia. The system that is currently being implemented is the “Rural Renewable Energy Development Project” in Bhutan. These projects have been selected based on their significant contributions to rural electrification in their respective countries.
According to the United Nations Global Initiative “Sustainable Energy for All” nearly one in five people around the world do not have access to modern energy services. Approximately three billion people across the globe currently rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. This energy related challenge is a major barrier to eradicating poverty. Though energy alone is not sufficient for creating conditions for economic growth, it is definitely necessary. Access to electricity is one of the strongest indicators of a country’s energy poverty status.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in 2008, 1.5 billion people, or 22% of the world’s population, had no access to electricity, 85% of whom live in rural areas. In spite of the growth in world population of more than 500 million since 2002, the unelectrified population has decreased by 161 million. It is interesting to note that though the global situation is improving there are remarkable regional disparities when it comes to electrification (Table 1). Asia and Latin America have made substantial efforts in their electrification while Sub Saharan Africa lags behind and is not able to keep up with its population growth.
So the key to both these challenges, of poverty and lack of energy accessibility, is to provide Sustainable Energy for all. Sustainable Energy is that which is accessible, cleaner and more efficient.
A significant proportion of the world’s poor live in rural areas which are geographically isolated and are often too thinly populated or have a low electricity demand to justify the extension of the traditional grid. Therefore there is a need to provide access to electricity through means other than the extension of the grid. This challenge demands decentralized solutions, namely isolated systems covering basic electricity needs or mini grids which are larger systems providing electricity to several households. As a successful solution - Renewable energies are the most adaptable, flexible and easy to use technologies for electrification of isolated rural areas. Off grid and mini grid applications are currently offering affordable decentralized renewable energy technologies such as Solar Home Systems, wind systems, biogas digesters, biogas gasifiers, micro-hydro power…