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How to Electrify one Fourth of the World Population

Vu Van Thong, Johan Driesen, Ronnie Belmans

Katholieke Univeristeit Leuven, Electrical Department Engineering
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10, 3001-Leuven, Belgium

Summary This paper aims to provide an idea how to use distributed

generation, technical and economical concerns to fasten rural
This paper provides a state of the art of current electrification electrification processes. Grid connection or micro-grid
situation in the world, many parts are lighted but still one quarter has no (standalone) options are also discussed.
access to electricity. The dark part happens in poor and developing
countries with most people in rural and remote areas. To light the the
rest of the world, in other word, is to electrify the rural areas. With
innovation of technology, reduction in production costs and flexibility in II. ELECTRICITY ACCESS
sizes and types, distributed generation can be a good solution for this
process. Some technical, operational, micro-grid and financial issues are
discussed. The gap of energy consumption between the rich and the
poor people is very large. In 2000 number one billion rich
people consumed 50% of the world’s energy supply
I. INTRODUCTION compared to the one billion poorest people who used only 4%
[6]. The GDP per capita in low-income countries can be
Even though people have started using electricity since 19th lower than US$ 400/year, while that of medium income
century, many parts of the world are still not electrified. A countries is under US$ 2,000/year and in rich countries can
quarter of the world population, approximately 1.6 billion be over US$ 30,000/year. With very low income a big
people, has no access to electricity [1]. Most of them live in question is how poor and developing countries afford to build
rural and remote areas of developing countries. The IEA and expand the energy infrastructure and how the investment
estimates by 2030 that there will be 1.4 billion people without needs can be financed.
electricity if we do make any dramatic changes in
electrification. According to the World Energy Outlook, nearly one forth
(1.57 billion people or 24.4 %, Annex 1) of the world’s
The contribution of electric energy in the civilization and population do not have access to electricity. Energy
modernization process is undeniable. However, the people in consumption is strongly correlated with national income.
rural and remote areas are the ones who can get the benefits Households in low income countries might spend 10–20% of
from electricity access and economic achievements very late. their earnings on energy, while rich country households might
Rural electrification is an essential element for the spend as little as 2 %. However, the consummtion of
development in the areas. It can play an important role in electricity in rich and poor contries is a big different. People
helping local people to improve their living standards and to in developed countries consume almost 25,000
reduce poverty. Rural electrification processes are carrying kWh/capita/year, while several developing countries use even
out in many developing and under-developed countries with less than 100 kWh/capita/year (Table 1). Even the poor
the help from developed countries or from the governments people consume very little energy, but it is a heavy burden for
through loan incentives or subsidy channels. them to pay the bills.

To electrify the rest of the world, in other word, is rural Although access to electricity cannot by itself eradicate
electrification (RE) process of the uncovered electricity parts these issues, it can certainly help toprevent some of them
of the world. from occurring. It is a crucial factor in achieving poverty
reduction. There are multiple links between energy, poverty
In the last decades, with economical and environmental and the environment. Electricity vastly enhances
incentives and technology innovations, small-scale generation opportunities for industrial and agricultural development, job
connected to the local distribution systems or standalone creation, health and education. There is a big difference in the
installations are increasing rapidly, commonly referred to as education levels of children from areas with access to
‘Distributed Generation’ (DG) [2]. It gives users the electricity and those from areas without, as they can study
opportunity to fill in part of the local demand often using longer at night [6]. The lack of stable and sustainable energy
locally available sustainable resources. Many of households services correlates closely with many poverty indicators.
were sparsely living in remote regions where grid extension is
too costly, sometimes impossible to reach. In this context, - no electricity: people need to use other energy source being
provision of electricity to them by using standalone, small- more expensive, more pollution, and may need more time in
scale DG technologies such as solar photovoltaic and wind searching and collecting (gathering wood, biofuel) – less time
generator could be a cost-effective solution [3], [4]. for study and cultivation
- burning biomass in open fires is highly inefficient, more The socio-economic and social benefits cannot be achieved
than 85% is wasted, also causing breathing and eye problems if people, including those in the poorest households, cannot
use the electricity made available by electrification. Three
aspects appear to be critical: the households must have
Table 1: Electricity consumption and GDP per capita in different regions and appliances to use the electricity; the tariff must be affordable,
countries in the world [6]
if necessary supplying for almost nothing an effective
quantity (demand and energy) of electricity; and there should
Country/region GDP/Capita kWh/Capita be monitoring and appropriate disincentives to discourage the
US$ Year 2000 Year 2000 theft of electricity by physical or administrative methods [7].
World 6,145 2,200
OECD 26,985 8,300 to 25,000
Russia 2,680 4,200 III. DG DEPLOYMENTS
Developing 1,362 900, min<100
Low income 475 50 Owing to the recent technology innovations, the cost of
Middle income 2,000 1,500 small-scale generators, using renewable energy sources or
China 1,040 800 fossil fuels, reduces significantly. Many stand-alone systems
India 500 360 have proved to be cost-effectives comparing to grid
extensions. The aim of this paper is investigations how to use
small-scale generators to supply electricity with low costs and
high reliability in isolated areas. We may consider as a micro-
grid system. Technical and economic issues are addressed.

DG offers a great value, as it provides a flexible way to

choose from a wide range of combinations of cost and
reliability with short construction periods. The
implementation of DG helps to diversify the primary energy
supply. According to the World Alliance for Decentralized
Energy (WADE) the overall share of distributed energy in
global power generation was 7.2% in 2004, and its goal is to
double the market share, 14% by 2012 [4].

Figure 1: Rural electrification in different regions of the world (source:

World Bank)

In a report Gaunt mentions three objectives of

electrification with which are associated characteristic
categories of electricity supply [7]:

- Economic development pursues efficiency, growth and

financial return. Electrical energy contributes to
productive output and the users meet fully the financial
Figure 2: Power generation share from DG
costs of electricity supply.
- Socio-economic development seeks long-term DG can be powered by renewable or non-renewable energy
sustainable changes of lifestyle. The financial costs of sources, using both modern and conventional technologies.
electricity supply are not completely paid by the The different DG technologies, including storage systems,
customers and the necessary subsidies are justified by can be divided through the primary resource used:
broader economic benefits derived from supplying
electricity. - Fossil-fuel based DG: gas engine, gas turbine, Stirling
- Social development is concerned with equity, justice and engine, fuel cell;
poverty alleviation. The use of the electricity is entirely - Non-fossil-fuel based DG: wind turbine, photovoltaic,
consumptive, without making significant contributions to biomass (biogas), small hydro, geothermal, tidal, wave;
financial or economic development, but important for a - Storage system: battery, flywheel, super-capacitor,
social benefit mostly derived from enabling people who superconducting coil, etc.
could not otherwise afford electricity to use modern
energy supplies to alleviate their poverty. The solar, wind and biomass resources are abundant and
mostly available in many rural areas of the world. Geothermal
Electrification alone cannot achieve the development sources are available at some particular locations. Tidal, wave
objectives, which are the result of many different factors. energy is not applied for the rural electrification process.
Many small hydro projects are successful in mountainous
areas. Most of them are run-off-river modes without or with Hybrid System
small dams. The electricity availability depends on the water Due to non-continuous availability of many renewable
flow and the raining season. energy resources such as wind and solar, one individual
energy source cannot provide continuous and reliable
Challenges electricity demand. To increase reliability and to reduce costs,
a hybrid system is preferable. Based on the available
- Users hosting local generation do not have the full resources, economic feasibilities and expected reliability,
technical capability to participate in the energy market and there are many combinations for hybrid systems.
grid support yet;
- PV systems are connected next to loads having cycles Load and
Distributed Load
entirely uncorrelated with the solar cycle. The generation Generation
profiles do not follow local load profiles, causing unbalance control
in generation/demand. Extra sources to compensate like
storage systems are needed;
- In remote areas the communication infrastructure is weak.
Storage system
An autonomous and simple control scheme is recommended;
- The electrical power system serves normally poor people
with low consumption demand; Figure 4: Hybrid system with storage compensation
- Maintenance is limited due to unavailable spare
equipment nearby; Some renewable energy resources are highly variable and
- The system operators have limited abilities and may not unpredictable. To smoothen out the intermitted power output,
be well trained compared to ones working with large power an energy storage system is required. An energy storage
systems. system is charged when a surplus of energy is available, and
discharged when the source does not produce enough power
Standalone and grid-connected options for the demand. The storage devices can also help improve
the power quality of the power system. A general layout of a
- Grid-connected options: helping local people better off storage system connection is shown in Figure 4.
their income and creating jobs through the use of local
resources and residual products. Depending on the length of power transfer interval, short- and
- Standalone options: is done where the national grid long-term power exchange is defined. Long-term power
cannot reach to. A hybrid generation seems to be a good transfer acts as energy buffer and can deliver power from a
solution. few seconds to a few minutes or even longer. Short-term
power transfer can be used to protect sensitive equipment
against voltage sags and can be active for a few milliseconds
IV. MICRO-GRID OPTION to a few seconds.

For remote applications, where the electric power system Energy storage technologies range from batteries, flywheels,
cannot reach due to economic reasons, a micro-grid or a super-capacitors, super-conducting coils, etc.
standalone option is a good choice. However, how to develop
this protocol in an economic, efficient, reliable and simple V. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS
way is still challenging.
Local and autonomous control without any communication - Voltage and frequency regulation: They have to be
is recommended. The control of voltage and frequency maintained in acceptable ranges. Distribution systems are
follows droop characteristics with a preset setting so that the designed to transfer electric energy from substation to
system voltages and frequency are maintained within customers, i.e. from the sending end to the receiving end, in
acceptable operating ranges (Figure 3). unidirectional power flow. The system voltage of a radial
system generally decreases gradually from the substation to
the end of feeders, as most loads have inductive
characteristics. With the connection of DG to the distribution
system, this simple voltage characteristic is not valid any
more. The power injected of DG also changes the operating
voltage profile of the system (Figure 5).

- Protection: faults on the grid, lightning (special attention

in rural and mountainous areas). Safe operation and
protection of the system are to be guaranteed at all times. This
Figure 3: Non-linear voltage droop control with PV in standalone operation
is less simple than it seems since the fault currents not only
[5] come from the main grid in a unidirectional way, but also
from DG units (dispersed current sources), making the
detection far more complicated. Therefore, the conventional
hierarchical protection method needs to be revised.
- Taxation incentives or providing subsidies from
governments to users to reduce capital cost of the investment;

- Feed-in tarrifs, ‘Green energy’ certificates functioning in

a retail portfolio obligation, grid access priorities or lowered
balancing costs can be applied;

- Consumer credit: users can obtain financing assistance

from financial institutions or local banks for purchasing
equipment and installation.

- As work and income are the main drivers for sustainable

development, the private sector can contribute to the
alleviation of poverty by job creation. Community
Figure 5: Voltage variation with different injected active and reactive power involvement is one of the cornerstones of RE program, local
and operating power factor (Base: without DG, Ind: PF 0.9 lagging, Con: PF equipments and qualified workers should be sourced
unity, Syn: PF 0.95 leading) of a distribution feeder [9]
whenever economical.
- Safety: is concerning for both customers and system
operators. The grounding scheme of the DG interconnection VII. CONCLUSIONS
may not cause over-voltages exceeding the rating of the
equipment connected to the power system and may not To electrify the rest of the world, accounting for one forth
disrupt the coordination of the ground fault protection on the of the world’s population, is still a challenge and takes some
power system time to reach. In other word, it is a rural electrification
process. RE plays an important role in helping local people to
improve their living standards and incomes. However, this
VI. FUNDING CONSIDERATION process has not covered all the regions and reached to
everyone yet. With the introduction and deployments of DG,
Energy requirements in rural households tend to be lower this may fasten the electrification program and provide the
than in urban households that Mutale mentions in his report rural people an extra solution to access electricity to better off
because [8]: their quality of life.
- People in rural areas tend to be poorer than those in urban
areas, so they have fewer appliances and cannot afford to
purchase as much electricity
- Lack of piped water to dwellings reduces the scope for
electric water heating
[1] World Energy Outlook 2006
- Fuelwood and other biomass is available at relatively low
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- Cultural practices, such as in traditional approaches to
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Annex 1: Electricity access rate in different parts of the world

(source: World Energy Outlook 2006)