Accomplishing rural electrification for over a billion people: Approaches towards sustainable solutions

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School of Engineering | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2014-03-18
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Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 23/2014
Access to electricity appears to be a prerequisite to materialize social, economic, and human development in the underprivileged rural areas. However, 1.1 billion rural people in the world, almost all of them living in developing countries, still do not have access to electricity. Although the rural electrification process poses more challenges than urban electrification, rural areas are blessed with abundant and relatively evenly distributed renewable energy resources. To facilitate electricity access to this huge population, it is essential to deal with the rural electrification task by considering its challenging features and the potential merits of renewable resources. The objective of this thesis is to present policy and techno-economic frameworks for sustainable and accelerated rural electrification for over a billion people in developing countries. This thesis considers grid expansion as the primary option for rural electrification, and renewable resource based off-grid options were considered as the alternative where grid expansion is not feasible. Grid-based rural electrification policies were examined by focusing on one case program (the Bangladesh rural electrification program) in light of challenges that are generic for developing countries. The assessment of the potentials and techno-economic viability of renewable resources were performed by utilizing analytical methodologies and well-established computer tools (HOMER and RETScreen). The evaluation of choices among rural electrification alternatives has been illustrated with the help of the Stochastic Multicriteria Acceptability Analysis (SMAA) tool. The evaluation methods and tools are illustrated by employing case data obtained mainly from Bangladesh. This thesis observed that some key policy elements influence the performance of a grid-based rural electrification program. These policy elements guide the rural electrification program towards success through addressing distinct rural electrification challenges. Agricultural residues have the potential to generate electricity to meet household-level demands in rural areas of many developing countries. Hybrid biogas and solar resources can serve both clean-cooking and electricity loads in rural households with achieving benefit (saving) more than the cost. The multicriteria decision support technique enables a rural electrification program to choose decision options from different alternatives based on sustainability criteria. 
Supervising professor
Lahdelma, Risto, Prof., Aalto University, Department of Energy Technology, Finland
Thesis advisor
Paatero, Jukka, Dr., Aalto University, Department of Energy Technology, Finland
rural electrification, renewable resource, multicriteria, policy elements, developing countries
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Rahman MM, Paatero JV, Poudyal A, Lahdelma R. Driving and hindering factors for rural electrification in developing countries: Lessons from Bangladesh. Energy Policy 2013; 61: 840-851.
  • [Publication 2]: Rahman MM, Paatero JV. A methodological approach for assessing potential of sustainable agricultural residues for electricity generation: South Asian perspective. Biomass and Bioenergy 2012; 47:153-163.
  • [Publication 3]: Rahman MM, Hasan MM, Paatero JV, Lahdelma R. Hybrid application of biogas and solar resources to fulfill household energy needs: A potentially viable option in rural areas of developing countries. Renewable Energy 2014; 68:35-45.
  • [Publication 4]: Rahman MM, Paatero JV, Lahdelma R. Evaluation of choices for sustainable rural electrification in developing countries: a multicriteria approach. Energy Policy 2013; 59: 589-599.
  • [Publication 5]: Rahman MM, Paatero JV. Integration of centralized photovoltaic (PV) system into a rural electric feeder at Laxmipur in Bangladesh. The 3rd International Renewable Energy Congress. Hammamet, Tunisia 20-22 December 2011. Tunis 2011, Centre de Publication Universitaire, 373-379.