Mini-Grids Support Toolkit

More than one billion people lack access to modern electricity services, with 80 percent living in rural areas. Extending national grids to remote locations can be costly, and communities in many rural areas have to wait for years to get connected. Mini-grids, however, can bring the socio-economic benefits of electrification to those without access in a cost-effective manner.

Mini-grids have opened the way for private sector and community investments to rapidly close the access gap. The International Energy Agency estimates that to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, 40 percent of all installed capacity will have to come from mini-grids. This toolkit explores several topics relevant to implementing mini-grids for energy access.

The toolkit is organized into modules, each of which presents recent learning and experience on a critical area relating to mini-grids. These modules include national policies and planning, emerging technologies, technical design, economics, financing, ownership, regulation, environmental impacts and community considerations. In this toolkit, mini-grids are defined as isolated systems that may range in size from 1 or 2 kW up to 10 MW and provide power to local consumers through a local distribution network. Mini-grids may be eventually connected to a central grid or remain as isolated systems

The modules adopt a question and answer format. Suggestions for further reading are provided at the end of each module for users who wish to delve deeper into specific issues. Case studies that highlight useful lessons relevant to the issues discussed in the modules are also provided.

National Planning and Policy

Decentralized electricity production plays a critical role in providing universal access to energy services. To achieve this goal, national governments may consider integrating mini-grids into their rural electrification planning and policies. Read more »

Technical Design

Mini-grids are composed of energy production systems, energy distribution systems and end-user systems. Mini-grid technical design is the process of selecting the components and configurations for each system that will deliver safe, reliable, cost-effective energy services that meet the needs of end users. Read more »

Emerging Technologies

In coming years, new technologies will improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of mini-grids. Emerging innovations in generation, storage and end-use equipment will increase efficiency, decrease costs and provide better energy services to end users. Read more »

Economics

When is a mini-grid the best economic choice? What are the costs? How do costs depend on technologies and the level of service to be provided? How can productive use of electricity from mini-grids improve mini-grid economics? Read more »

Community Involvement

Developers must understand the local context when designing a mini-grid. Involving the community helps mini-grid projects meet local energy needs and can create new opportunities for improving livelihoods. Read more »

Ownership Models

Identifying who will own and operate a mini-grid is crucial. Ownership by governments, public utilities, communities, private businesses or some combination provides varying benefits and drawbacks, but the project’s operating environment often determines which model is best. Read more »

Fostering a Supportive Regulatory Environment

Effective regulation is essential for successful mini-grid development. Mini-grid regulations differ from those of traditional power utilities due to their smaller size, distinct engineering requirements and varying ownership and business models. Read more »

Challenges and Needs in Financing

Securing debt and equity for mini-grid projects can be challenging, but is essential to see a project through permitting, design, construction and commissioning. Commercial loans can be prohibitive, but governments, donors, banks and private investors can create new financing opportunities. Read more »

Environmental, Health and Safety Impacts

Addressing the environmental, health and safety impacts of mini-grids in project design, implementation and monitoring is essential. It is also important to mitigate risk to ensure sustainability and regulatory compliance and to meet donor requirements. Read more »

Case Studies

In rural areas, mini-grids are proving a viable alternative to grid extension. From remote villages in Tanzania to small islands in India, communities are gaining access to electricity for the first time through mini-grids. Case studies of successful mini-grids can help developers apply best practices to new projects. Read more »
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The content of the Mini-Grids Support Toolkit was developed by Winrock International and the World Resources Institute (WRI) under Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program (EEREP), Increasing Adoption of Renewable Energy Leader with Associates Cooperative Agreement No. AID–OAA–L-11-00002 funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). RTI International updated and adapted the toolkit for the web under the four-year Energy Sector Technical Leadership (ESTL) Task Order (AID-OAA-TO-13-00048) funded by USAID.

Last updated: February 12, 2018

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