Decentralised electric power delivery model for rural electrification in Pakistan

  • This project sought to model a scalable solar microgrid system that could serve the households and communities of the 55 million people in Pakistan without reliable access to electricity.
  • Researchers found that microgrids could provide a feasible alternative to grid electrification in rural Pakistan, and could provide electricity beyond basic needs like light and mobile charging ports if properly implemented.
  • However, current regulations in the Pakistani energy sector prohibit small entrepreneurs from entering the market to provide alternatives to grid electricity, even in off-grid areas.
  • Researchers recommended that changes be made in the law to allow private parties to generate and distribute electricity through renewable sources up to 100KW/1MW in off-grid and bad grid areas. 

How does one go about providing electricity to 20 million Pakistanis who live without electricity?

Projects like hydroelectric dams and thermal generation sites have large upfront costs of setup and distribution. Solar micro-grids have presented a low-emission solution for providing basic electricity to those who would otherwise go without it.

Whilst these micro-grids solutions can typically offer basic services to individual households, like light and a mobile charging point, too often they lack the capacity to provide the larger loads needed for important activities outside individual households, like schooling, healthcare, and water pumps.

In this project, researchers sought to model a solar microgrid that could provide reliable electricity to both households and community activities in areas of rural Pakistan currently off-grid, or on “bad grid” – without reliable all-day access.

To ensure that their model was at once scalable and flexible to different contexts in rural Pakistan, the researchers took into account numerous factors that could determine how a grid is designed. For example, the model defines how a microgrid’s components should be chosen dependent on local capacities, such as for battery storage, and how much sunlight an area receives over the year.

The researchers also investigated the demand for electricity amongst potential consumers who are currently off-grid. What they found it that people have quite sophisticated demands for how they would use electricity beyond light and mobile phone charging, and would be willing to pay for access. This suggests that such microgrids, if taking in to account the need for proper components, could be financially feasible.

However, at present, regulations in the Pakistani energy sector prohibit small entrepreneurs from entering the market to provide alternatives to the national grid. By modifying the law to allow private parties to generate and distribute electricity through renewable sources in off-grid and bad-grid areas, these areas might stand to benefit from the private provision of such micro-grid systems.

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