Microgrids and High - Quality Central Grid Alternatives: Challenges and Imperatives Elucidated by Case Studies and Simulation
Energy poverty – the circumstance of depending on low quality fuels and inefficient end-uses, or conversely, the lack of access to modern energy services – is one of the defining global issues of our time. Access to electricity is essential to eradicating energy poverty and empowering individuals, communities and economies, to reach their potential. Globally, 1.3 billion people, mainly in less developed countries, lack access to electricity. While central grid extension often provides electricity at very low cost, the reliability of the central grid in less developed countries is so low that the priority given by policy makers to central grid extension must be questioned. Rather than maximizing the extent of often unreliable or simply unenergized central grid extensions, we demonstrate the imperative to consider a multi-track approach to electricity access that includes microgrids and high quality solar lighting products. Through case studies and modeling efforts based on extensive empirical data, we provide new insight to this imperative and elucidate the nature of the challenges and solutions for microgrids to eradicate energy poverty.