DE is a Better Solution for Electrifying Remote Areas.
Energy Access in Developing Countries
Approximately one-third of the world’s population does not have access to electricity (see figure). Most of these people live in developing and underdeveloped areas or live in areas where population density is too low to justify grid access or connection. Because of the close relationship between energy and economic production the lack of electrical power is arguably the main obstacle to further economic development and diversification in many of the world’s underdeveloped regions.
Presently there are 460 million people in China and India alone without access to modern energy systems. This lack of energy access contributes to shortened life expectancy, reduced health, lower educational levels, and degradation of the environment. In India only about one-third of rural households are electrified, and in Kenya access to electricity stands at 15%. Governments of these countries have set targets to increase access to electricity and implement measures to achieve these, for instance, through rural electrification programmes. The most successful rural electrification program was implemented in Thailand where the scheme increased rural energy access in the country from 20% in 1974 to 98% today.
Energy Access through DE – Rural Electrification Projects
The potential for DE in realizing electrification objectives is great. DE is a far cheaper method of supplying power to areas than grid extension and can also be much cleaner. A recent WADE study concluded that multilateral development agencies and financing institutions have not given DE the attention it deserves. Nevertheless the World Bank and similar institutions have a growing number of programmes in this area. The focus has so far been mainly photovoltaic projects, with some biomass, small-scale wind and hydro. Technologically, finding a suitable system for a certain area can be challenging, and the appropriate technology depends heavily on local circumstances. However, there is a wide range of DE technologies available, and many of these are flexible in their application, providing appropriate and most effective solutions. CHP in industry, especially agricultural processing industries, for electrification of rural and peri-urban areas has significant potential that has been underestimated.
Energy Access through DE – Local Participation
Socially, both a centralized energy supply and DE generation can have a fundamental impact on a community. The availability of electricity and electrical appliances are likely to change production and living patterns, as well as power relationships. DE has the advantage, though, that it ensures participation of local people, allowing them to be actively involved, rather than passive consumers. Programmes to widen electricity access through DE create perfect opportunities for capacity building and education to ensure that the potential that DE offers is fully exploited.