Author(s): Gollwitzer L., Cloke J.M.P.
Publication date: 30 May 2018
Publication type: LCEDN Briefing Paper
Access to modern energy can be a key enabler for human development through improvements in livelihoods, education and healthcare. Over the last two decades decentralized energy options using renewable energy sources have enabled faster access to reliable energy services for communities across developing Asia and Africa. These Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) solutions include both standalone systems such as Solar Home Systems (SHS) and solar lanterns, and interconnected systems such as micro and mini-grids. In the current context, Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and national governments are actively developing policies around mini-grids and accelerating their deployment as part of rural electrification plans. There is, thus, an urgency to research and collate both practice and learning that ensures the long-term sustainability of these systems. While the technical and financial factors affecting the operational sustainability of rural mini-grids in developing countries are comparatively well-researched, the social and institutional aspects critical for longer-term sustainability are relatively under-researched and form the basis of this paper. This briefing paper builds on studies of mini-grids in Kenya and in Bangladesh to illustrate the relevance of community governance in the deployment and management of DRE systems in underserved and off-grid regions of the Global South. Mini grids are highly dependent on community cooperation and good governance mechanisms to succeed. Understanding this role of local institutions is a pertinent challenge because, despite recent developments in the mini-grid sector, pro-poor, operationally sustainable and easily replicable approaches for mini-grid-based rural electrification remain difficult to find. This understanding holds considerable promise in connecting knowledge gained from both community-based and private-sector mini-grid operation