Energy for rural communities
Renewable energy options are increasingly well developed technically and markets are
expanding but severe constraints on the market remain. Governments of many developing
countries are working to increase grid connectivity although progress is slow and the growth
often does not keep up with demand. The more densely populated areas tend to receive
priority over others with lower populations, since more people can be connected to the grid
supply for the same cost.
When attempting to bring renewable
energy technologies within range of
poor people it is important to work
with the existing market to ensure
that it is locally sustainable – not
only economically and
environmentally but in a range of
factors that contribute to
• Local manufacture and
• Local ownership and
• Community and individual
financing, especially from
Figure 2: Nilde Portal charging the batteries. Her family
owns an improved mill at Cuichupucro to which local
villagers bring their grain. Photo credit: Practical Action /
Involving rural people
Although there will be differences in
the way projects are implemented, it has been found that successful projects involve the
people affected in the planning and decision-making, often through the community
committee. Many benefits are particular to women such as the provision of mechanised grain
milling services, replacing labour intensive traditional methods of grain milling and it is
important to include women representatives in the committee.
Involvement of users results in a more efficient, rational use of resources and more equitable
sharing of the benefits of development and by involving users from the beginning the costs
can be reduced by using local labour to build the infrastructure and, with training, carry out
installations and maintenance thus ensuring a better and cheaper service for consumers.
Rural development is dependent upon making energy services more readily available to people
living in remote areas. Ideally, energy services should be introduced within the framework of
wider infrastructure and economic development.
Combining development activities in such a way will strengthen the chances of successful
community based energy provision and enable the communities to improve their livelihoods
and generate additional income.
Mini grid system arrangements can include a distribution network with AC power stepped up
to higher voltages for distribution, from 0.4kV for lower voltage distribution and from 11kV for
higher voltage transmission lines. The electrification of villages with scattered houses and
settlements using AC power systems requires a costly distribution network.
Hybrid systems combine renewable energy systems such as wind and solar with a diesel
generator for a more consistent supply. There is a growing interest in integrated systems of
energy delivery yet there is still only limited adoption of energy systems for the rural poor,
primarily because hybrid energy systems add to the cost of energy delivery.