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Illuminated but not electrified: An assessment of the impact of Solar Home System on rural households in South Africa
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3449-2253
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2189-0105
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4589-7045
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8604-9299
2015 (English)In: Applied Energy, ISSN 0306-2619, E-ISSN 1872-9118, Vol. 155, p. 354-364Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The introduction of the off-grid electrification program in South Africa using the Solar Home System (SHS) was a central component of the government policy aimed at bringing development to un-electrified households. An assessment of the performance of SHS in many countries provided little evidence to support the development impact of the system. The general perception is that the SHS program is wasting government funds and has no hope of achieving the set objectives. Previous scientific reports have concluded that SHS is the most viable technology for bringing about socio-economic development to rural households. Most of these conclusions have been based on one sided arguments and largely on anecdotal evidence. This study provides a pluralistic view of the subject from the perspective of the energy service companies (ESCOs) and the households using the equipment. The development impact of SHS is subjected to scientific analysis by investigating the economic and social dimensions of the program. Additionally, the sustainability of the South African SHS program is assessed by investigating the challenges facing the ESCOs and the households. The study reveals that illumination provided by SHS electricity has profound impact on the livelihoods of rural households. Due to the limited capacity of SHS for productive and thermal use, there are limited direct economic benefits to the households. The associated economic impact is peripheral to the secondary usage of SHS electricity. SHS has improved the productivity of small scale business owners who utilize the light from SHS to do business at night. Irregularities in payment of subsidy funds and energy bills, high operation cost, non-optimal use of SHS, grid encroachment, and lack of customer satisfaction contribute to make the business unsustainable for the ESCOs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 155, p. 354-364
Keywords [en]
Energy burden, Off-grid electrification, Socio-economic development, Solar Home System, Sustainability, User education, Customer satisfaction, Economics, Electric utilities, Solar buildings, Sustainable development, Economic and social effects
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-28639DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2015.05.120ISI: 000360950900030Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84935019287OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-28639DiVA, id: diva2:842905
Available from: 2015-07-23 Created: 2015-07-23 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sustainability and development impacts of off-grid electrification in developing countries: An assessment of South Africa's rural electrification program
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sustainability and development impacts of off-grid electrification in developing countries: An assessment of South Africa's rural electrification program
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Hållbarhet och utvecklingseffekter av off-grid elektrifiering i utvecklingsländer : En bedömning av Sydafrikas elektrifiering av landsbygden programmet
Abstract [en]

Previous studies have shown that provision of sustainable electricity supply to rural households is essential to bring development to off-grid populations. For this reason, most developing countries put large efforts into rural electrification programs to stimulate development and reduce poverty. However, to be sustainable these programs need to recover costs, which poses a challenge to remote low income populations.  This often forces governments and other institutions involved in rural electrification to subsidize the electricity production. It also affects the choice of technology and places a barrier on the level of energy provided in line with the ability to pay for services. As a result of this, most programs have failed to achieve the desired objectives, as the technologies used often do not support income generating activities that could increase the payment capabilities of the beneficiaries and contribute to development.

This thesis is focused on the rural electrification program of South Africa, the country in sub-Saharan Africa that has the highest access to electricity. It investigates the success elements that influence the sustainability of rural electrification programs and their contributions to socio-economic development. This was achieved by evaluating the South African program that provides solar home systems to off-grid communities, and a hybrid solar-wind mini-grid project in South Africa. The study also draw lessons from other rural electrification programs in neighbouring countries, i.e. an evaluation of a hybrid solar-diesel mini-grid system in Namibia, and a review of two systems, a hybrid solar-biomass mini-grid project in Botswana and a hydro mini-grid program in Lesotho. The study revealed that hydro based hybrid mini-grid systems provide the most cost effective way of bringing energy services to rural settlements. Regardless of technology, successful programs depend on adequate support from the government, implementation of a progressive tariff system that allows the high consuming high income earners and businesses, to cross subsidize the low consuming , low income users. It shows that it is more likely for rural electrification programs to survive if the design considers the existing businesses, population growth and the corresponding load increase. The thesis further shows that provision of sufficient energy to induce income generating activities is essential to decrease the need for subsidies and to ensure the sustainability of programs. In addition, availability of spare parts and a capable management team is essential for the successful operations and maintenance of these systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University, 2016. p. 65
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 198
Keywords
Off-grid electrification, sustainability, solar home system, hybrid mini-grid, renewable energy, technical challenges
National Category
Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering
Research subject
Energy- and Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-30762 (URN)978-91-7485-252-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-03-04, Gamma, Mälardalens högskola, Västerås, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-02-01Bibliographically approved

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Azimoh, Chukwuma LeonardKlintenberg, PatrikWallin, FredrikKarlsson, Björn

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