Frugal engineering: Optimising utility operations with low-cost sensors in developing countries

Project Active since Sustainable Growth and Energy

In many sub-Saharan African regions, electricity access is widespread, yet, the power connection is often unreliable. Outages and voltage fluctuations are frequent, but very little is known about their geographic and temporal occurrence or their technical causes. This project seeks to identify policies that can bridge the power quality and reliability gap through findings from Sierra Leone.

The value of accurate power reliability data is critical in decision making for utility operations, energy policymakers, electricity regulatory authorities, and power systems investors alike. Further, frequent outages and voltage fluctuations constrain the economic well-being of households and small businesses by discouraging investments in welfare-improving and income-generating appliances and reducing the output from existing appliances.

Households and firms also often devote considerable resources to alternatives to reliable grid power, including voltage regulators and backup generators. Without accurate power reliability data, utilities, policymakers and regulators must make important investment decisions without knowing the extent to which blackouts and brownouts affect the local economy or the most cost-effective ways to improve grid reliability.