How solar minigrids could brighten economic prospects for unserved millions in Africa

Skeptics will point out that solar minigrids are not a new idea, and they have a spotty track record. Indeed, foundations and development partners already have invested $300 million to $400 million in hundreds of pilot projects. Moreover, evaluations and site visits by RMI program managers and analysts to dozens of projects in Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Sierra Leone and India show that few have demonstrated a viable and scalable business, with sufficient return on capital to draw in the really large investments needed. Many have not lived up to expectations, because of such problems as initial high capital costs or insufficient electricity demand. Surprisingly, a current major barrier is the perception that not enough demand for power exists to justify major investments.

A new analysis, based on consultations with key players and a 3.5-day charrette in Nigeria with more than 60 industry leaders in early March, provides a path to rapidly accelerate market growth for minigrids, including cutting the cost of power by two-thirds, from $0.60-1.00/kWh today to $0.25/kWh by 2020. At that price, minigrid electricity would be far cheaper than power from the small, noisy and polluting petrol and diesel generators that are ubiquitous across Africa and Southeast Asia — and transformative in the economic activity it would unlock.

Read the full article: Greenbiz

Download the study document: Minigrid Design Charrette