Decentralised off-grid electricity generation in developing countries: Business models for off-grid electricity supply

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Institute of Energy and Sustainable Dev

Abstract

As 80% of about 1.6 billion people who lacked access to electricity in the world in 2005 reside in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and given the importance of energy in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of the countries and thereby general welfare of the population, this proposal aims at developing innovative solutions to the problem through an interdisciplinary research involving UK and South Asian (Indian) universities, NGOs, government agencies, financing institutions, and other stakeholders. We propose to take a systematic view of the problem by considering the local resource availability, appropriate technology choices, institutional arrangements, and financing options and to demonstrate cost-effective and viable options through a demonstration project in a selected area of South Asia. We would also analyse the scaling-up and mainstreaming of the off-grid business delivery models and recommend enabling conditions for a wider implementation of such solutions. This research proposal is based on the premise that the solution strategy has to promote innovative solutions as opposed to prescribing standard templates for adoption and that each rural area will have to search for its own solutions a) By focusing on the creation of opportunities for higher income generation in monetary terms. Unless money flow increases to the poor, commercial energies stand little chance of competing with traditional energies. b) by developing local energy markets taking into account the specificities of local energy situation resources, needs, capacities, strengths and constraints and adopting appropriate supply mechanisms and organizational structures to cater to the local needs. c) by selective and judicious use of market interventions to make energy supply affordable but ensuring financial viability of energy supply. Unless the supply is financially viable, it cannot be sustained. d) by ensuring local community participation in the decision-making and policy implementation process.Deriving from the above premise, this research will focus on hybrid, multi-functional technological platforms using innovative participatory delivery mechanisms (such as franchisees, licensees, co-operatives or other local enterprise models) and alternative funding options (e.g. micro-finance, capital grants, subsidies, fee-based systems). Two main research questions are as follows:(1) Are there cost-effective, secure and reliable local off-grid electricity supply solutions that can meet the present and future needs and are socially acceptable, institutionally viable and environmentally desirable?(2) Do these local solutions have the scaling-up and replication potentials and can these solutions be brought to the mainstream for wider electricity access in the developing world?We are proposing an inter-disciplinary work programme spanning over a period of five years that will be conducted by a Consortium led by the University of Dundee. The work is organised around two main themes (Theme 1: local level solutions, Theme 2: Replicable generic models) and each theme revolves around two work packages (WP) as described below, with a total of 5 packages. At each work package level, we shall pay specific attention to capacity building, cross-referencing and cross-learning, dissemination of the research outcomes and policy translation of academic research. These four cross-cutting elements run across the entire programme.We are specifically focusing on South Asia where the largest concentration of people without energy access can be found. The diversity of local conditions found in the South Asian region provides a rich comparative base for analysing decentralised off-grid electricity supply provisions. The consortium partners have excellent research and project track records in this area and our serious inter-disciplinary research programme aims to provide lasting solutions to the energy and development problems.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/G063826/1 20/10/2009 31/08/2012 £1,533,303
EP/G063826/2 Transfer EP/G063826/1 01/09/2012 30/04/2015 £829,548
 
Description Research funded through this grant has developed the following:
a) a detailed knowledge of decentralised electrification in South Asia and in other developing regions;
b) a systematic approach for analysing off-grid electrification interventions, particularly for mini/micro-grids;
c) demonstration projects using alternative service delivery models;
d) capacity of researchers and other stakeholders through training sessions and workshops;
e) knowledge products.
Exploitation Route The knowledge created through this work can be taken forward in various ways. Some such possibilities are indicated below:
a) Our knowledge products (books, reports) are being widely used globally, which offer valuable information and knowledge to others.
b) Our demonstration projects offer the possibility of further extension and integration with other activities. For example, integration of energy-water and food theme can be tested. Similarly, clean energy for transport can be integrated in these sites thereby offering the opportunity of testing alternative clean/ green development ideas.
c) The academic knowledge can be put into teaching practice through a dedicated programme on decentralised energy services.
d) Business development in rural/ peri-urban areas to provide clean electricity can also be a way forward.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Energy,Environment

URL https://dmu.academia.edu/OASYSSouthAsiaResearchProject
 
Description The research findings have been used in a number of ways: a) Our knowledge products have appeared in policy support work. For example, the book edited by Bhattacharyya SC titled Rural Electrification through Decentralised Off-grid Systems in Developing Countries has been cited in Mini-Grif Policy Toolkit (EU Energy Initiative) and in Low Carbon Mini-Grids (DfID). Similarly, our works have been cited in World Bank report From the Bottom-Up: How Small Power Producers and Mini-grids can Deliver Electrification and Renewable Energy in Africa. b) Our researchers have been interviewed/ appeared in news articles. Prof. Bhattacharyya has been quoted in Africa's Power Surge (New Scientist, 23 August 2014). c) Our project has featured in commercial journals. The Solar Quarterly has highlighted this project in its April-June 2014 issue. d) Our demonstration project sites have been visited by various outside teams to gain practical experience.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Citation in ADB report
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact The ADB study has looked into business models for off-grid and mini-grid businesses and has referred to Kritika and Palit paper produced by this project. The business case was highlighted through the ADB report which in turn has influenced economic activities as well as training and sustainability issues.
URL http://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/161889/business-models-renewable-energy-gms.pdf
 
Description Interview in New Scientist
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact The news article focused on electrification in Africa and advocated the use of mini-grids. It helped generate awareness and quoted the PI of this project.
URL https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329832-900-race-to-electrify-rural-africa-could-help-the-we...
 
Description Corporate Social Responsibility Funding
Amount रू 2,164,000 (INR)
Organisation Rural Electrification Corporation India 
Sector Public
Country India
Start 11/2013 
End 11/2014
 
Description Collaboration with IRADA (NGO) 
Organisation Institute for Agri-Food Research and Technology
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution IRADA is an NGO in Orissa and has provided support to the demonstration projects carried out in Orissa. They have access to local people and have organised the local support for the smooth implementation of the demonstration projects.
Collaborator Contribution They have provided a vital support to the demonstration component of the project. They have helped the project team and facilitated the implementation of the demonstration component in Orissa through continuous interaction with the local stakeholders. They are also ensuring post implementation follow-up and support. In addition, IRADA is also carrying out livelihood support programmes in the demonstration project area to add value to the project.
Impact The main outcome of the collaboration is the successful implementation of micro-grids in Orissa. Their vital support has ensured delivery of this vital component.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Collaboration with the Solar Transitions project 
Organisation University of Oslo
Country Norway 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Solar Transitions project is considering transfer of successful off-grid experience from one country to another. This is a project led by the University of Oslo, Norway and has looked into the solar PV system in the Sunderbans (India) and is attempting to see if this can be transplanted to Kenya. As there is synergy between the OASYS project and the Solar Transitions project, both the teams are collaborating with each other, thereby creating the opportunity for cross learning.
Collaborator Contribution This allowed exchange of experiences as they are also working in similar areas. The project leader participated in our workshop and has helped us review papers for a special issue.
Impact This has resulted in a participation in workshop.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Mera Gao Power 
Organisation Mera Gao Power
Country India 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Mera Gao Power is a partner for our demonstration component of the project. We have partnered with Mera Gao for providing solar micro-grid-based lighting services in some off-grid villages in Uttar Pradesh in India. Mera Gao is installing the micro-grids, managing them and making investment for the projects with this project providing the bridging fund. This partnership provides an example of private-sector based supply of off-grid electrification leveraging grant fund.
Collaborator Contribution The partner brings its expertise of solar PV-based micro-grid delivery to the local villages, provides access to a large number of off-grid households; manages the delivery in a commercial system and supports the demonstration activity investing its own contribution. It also monitors the performance and supports the impact evaluation activities.
Impact The main output of the work is the physical installation of micro-grids in villages in Uttar Pradesh. A video has been prepared which will be made available when finished. A report will also describe the intervention.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Mlinda Foundation 
Organisation Mlinda Foundation
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Mlinda Foundation has partnered with us to deliver one component of the demonstration project, where private funding from Mlinda Foundation has supplemented the project grant fund to provide access to villages in the Sunderbans in West Bengal India.
Collaborator Contribution This contribution has led to wider access of electricity to households and businesses through a fund leveraging model.
Impact Demonstration project in West Bengal India
Start Year 2012
 
Description Climate Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk was organised as part of DMU's initiatives on Climate change mitigation and how research is supporting and contributing to this objective. Around 15 participants attended the event from within DMU and consisted of other staff members, students and researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Final Dissemination event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was the final dissemination event organised in the UK in March 2015. This was attended by about 50 people from various stakeholder grooups. This has resulted in appreciation of the work carried out and solicitation for collaboration in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.academia.edu/11750991/Final_Dissemination_Workshop_Proceedings_-_Leicester_2015
 
Description Mini-grid workshop in Bangalore 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop attracted 70 delegates from government agencies, private sector, project implementers, practitioners, academia, and policy advocacy agencies from more than 10 countries including Bangladesh, India, Germany, Kenya, France, Norway, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the UK, and the USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.academia.edu/12667492/Proceedings_of_the_Workshop_on_Mini-grids_held_in_Bangalore_India
 
Description Mini-grids for electrification: OASYS South Asia Experience - 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The seminar was part of Nottingham University's Environment and Society Semnar Series organised by the Geography Department but involved cross-faculty audience. Around 30 staff, researchers and students attended the seminar and this led to a lively discussion afterwards. A number of doctoral students attended workshops at Leicester following this and used materials from the project site.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.academia.edu/22697555/Mini-grids_for_electricity_access_OASYS_South_Asia_Project_Experie...
 
Description Project Video 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This video captures the off-grid demonstration projects undertaken through OASYS SA project. It has been viewed by almost 1400 people internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKJS4a0Jbpc
 
Description Technology Discussion Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The event was organised to discuss the technological options and innovations taking place in the area of mini-grids in South Asia. This was attended by more than 40 participants and led to greater collaboration with industry/ business.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.academia.edu/9265807/Proceedings_of_the_Technology_Discussion_Forum
 
Description Workshop on SE4ALL 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This event brought about 40 paricipants from NGO, social entrepreneurs, academics, practitioners and project members to discuss about bottom-up policy design for SE4ALL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.academia.edu/8470310/Workshop_Proceedings_-_Kolkata_Workshop_31st_July_2014