DIW: Solar energy accelerates electrification in poorer areas

Renewable energies have accelerated the electrification of developing and emerging countries in recent years. Decentralized solar systems in particular were able to provide access to electricity in rural regions. Using case studies in Bangladesh, Yemen, Kenya and Nigeria, economists from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) and researchers from the Technical University (TU) Berlin have investigated the conditions under which electrification is developing particularly well.
According to the report, 770 million people worldwide are still without access to electricity, especially in large parts of Africa and some countries in South Asia and South America, but still around 250 million fewer than in 2016. The average electrification rate in most regions is now almost 90 to 100 percent. Only in sub-Saharan Africa is more than half the population without access to electricity.
The fact that electrification has made great strides is primarily due to the increased provision of decentralized solar solutions, says study author Christian von Hirschhausen: »Technical progress and a considerable drop in costs have led to decentralized solar energy being a favorable option for electrification in many places over the past decade, which can be used to reach remote rural areas in particular.«
But the gap between urban and rural areas still remains large. In sub-Saharan Africa, only one in three people in rural areas has access to electricity, while in urban areas the figure is 78 percent. »A high population density makes it easier and cheaper to expand the public power grid,« says study author Georg Heinemann. Decentralized solutions are therefore required for rural areas.
This has been particularly successful in Bangladesh and Kenya. Both countries have made great political efforts »to create the right framework conditions for renewable energies.« New payment models also enable poorer households to invest.
In Nigeria, on the other hand, the efforts have been less successful, despite a favorable payment model, »because a weak institutional environment favors technologies such as diesel generators.« In Yemen, the war has led to solar energy becoming the most important source of electricity, as the conventional electricity infrastructure has been severely damaged.
However, due to the corona pandemic, the electrification rate in Africa will fall again this year for the first time, warns study author Dawud Ansari. »It is necessary that access to electricity remains a top goal on the agenda of the international community and national governments.«

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