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Leapfrogging the energy poverty gap in Africa

Dec 13 2013

A geo-economic analysis, identifying the least-cost rural electrification options for sub-Saharan Africa which could bring an end to the persistent energy poverty, was recently presented in an article published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. JRC scientists carried out their research in collaboration with colleagues from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

For each geographical location, calculated for each km2 pixel, the lowest cost options for electricity generation via mini hydropower (with a capacity ranging from 100kW to 1MW), photovoltaic (PV) solar panels which are not connected to the power network and diesel generators are calculated and then they are compared to the costs for an extension of the electricity grid. Calculations showed for example that in 2012 PV was the cheapest electricity source for 34% of the overall African population. The grid extension costs differed depending on the distance from the grid, but an additional 2,5 eurocents/kWh per km had to be accounted for.

The energy-related local data and regional geo-information is organised in user-friendly maps, which could help decision- and policy-makers to plan the least-cost rural electrification scenarios, thereby also reducing the energy poverty gap.

The abovementioned energy technologies have gone through fundamental changes, leading to cost reductions and making them more competitive. PV modules, for instance, now cost ten times less than in 2000.

The research is mainly based on findings by the JRC's African Renewable Energy Technology Platform (AFRETEP) and contributes to the United Nations' initiative Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL). Sharing this geo-information can also be marked as a milestone in the JRC's collaboration with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE). Indeed, the data incorporated in these maps can now be shown as reviewed maps in IRENA's and ECREEE's map catalogues and map servers.