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DISTRIBUTED GENERATION ELECTRIFYING THE RURAL WORLD... ONE MICROGRID AT A TIME Briefly put: While the developed world is seeing the microgrid as the answer to increasing grid reliability, in the developing world the microgrid is being considered as a realistic, financially sustainable alternative to traditional grid electrification. Residents of the Annobon Province, an island off Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa, have only 5 hours of electricity access per day and spend almost 15-20% of their salary on additional energy resources such as kerosene. This is all about to change – with the installation of a 5MW solar microgrid to provide a reliable source of power, 24 hours a day. “Today over 1 billion people are without power. We are taking our experience in microgrids from Alcatraz Island, the US Department of Defence and private sector customers to now apply it to improving quality of life for people in rural areas where grid connected power does not exist or is not reliable,” said Ken McCauley, president and CEO Princeton Power Systems. Over 1.3 billion people globally live without access to electricity The government of Equatorial Guinea has selected MAECI Solar, together with GE Power and Water systems and Princeton Power Systems, to design Africa’s largest self-suffi cient solar microgrid, handling 100% of the island’s energy demand. The Annobon community, like many rural populations, is reliant on diesel generated power, oil and kerosene to provide light. The need for clean and sustainable power has never been more apparent than it is now, with over 1.3 billion people globally living without access to electricity. Decentralised, modular energy systems, or microgrids as they are commonly known, continue to play a vital part in many electrification schemes in the developing world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) presented a scenario (Energy for All) for universal modern energy access by 2030. In this, 70% of rural areas are either 36 connected with mini-grids or small-scale stand-alone off-grid solutions [World Energy Outlook 2011]. These small-scale energy systems make it possible for remote communities to put an end to their dependence on fossil fuels. The declining cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies and growth in the energy storage market are seeing the proliferation of solar microgrid deployments, especially in India and Africa, where sunshine is plentiful. This abundant renewable source makes grid parity between renewables and traditional generation a possibility; and creates a viable alternative to extending the grid in isolated areas where the cost of extending transmission lines is prohibitive. Diffi cult terrain and logistical challenges make expanding the central grid unfeasible. Senior analyst for Navigant Research Peter Asmus puts it this way: “A widening recognition of the contribution renewable energy makes to rural development, lower health costs (linked to air pollution), energy independence, and climate change mitigation is shifting renewable energy from the fringe to the mainstream of sustainable economics. “Remote microgrids can serve as the anchors of new, appropriate scale infrastructure, a shift to smarter ways to deliver humanitarian services to the poor.” 1 According to the IEA, 84% of the globe’s rural un-electrified communities can be found in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. As it stands, two thirds of the population lacks access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Columbia University’s Earth Institute, through the Millennium Villages initiative, took on the challenge of devising ways to increase electricity access in rural Mali. It developed the SharedSolar pay-as-you-go electricity 1. Remote Microgrids, Pike Research (June 2012) How the SharedSolar system works: Here’s how the system works: a central, small-scale (1.4 kW generating capacity with 16.8 kWh battery storage) solar system connecting to up to 20 customers (homes, businesses, or small institutions such as schools) within a 100 meter radius via underground cables. End users buy prepaid scratch cards from local vendors according to their needs and budget. Each card contains a code which, when sent by text message to a payment server, credits a smart power meter located inside the premises. Electrical current is now available. The meter monitors usage until the customer’s credit is exhausted, at which point the circuit is switched off until more funds are added. Excerpt from an article by Jeremy Hinsdale, Millennium Villages (April 2012) Figure 1: SharedSolar: “Pay-As-You-Go Electricity via mobile Telephony” model rather than installing unaffordable individual solar home systems. A scalable microgrid was created that includes solar PV, batteries and smart meters. The pilot for SharedSolar technology was first tested in Pelangala, Mali, and provides 172 households with electricity. New programmes are being developed in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Haiti. Further west in Sine Mousaa Abdou, Senegal, German based company, Inensus has joined forces with Matforce, a Senegalese company, to create a joint venture – Inensus West Africa S.A.R.L – aiming to electrify the households of 70 families dependent on kerosene lamps and candles. After the installation of a hybrid microgrid, using wind, solar and diesel at METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE - 3 | 2014