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A Retrospective Analysis of Energy Access with a Focus on the Role of Mini-Grids

Department of Energy Technology, Division of Energy Systems, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm 11428, Sweden
Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
Department of Geography and Environment, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK
Center for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London SW7 1NE, UK
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401, USA
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(5), 1793;
Received: 30 January 2020 / Revised: 20 February 2020 / Accepted: 21 February 2020 / Published: 27 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Energy Economics and Policy)
Achieving universal access to electricity by 2030 is a key part of the Agenda for Sustainable Development, and has its own Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 7.1. This is because electricity services are required for almost all aspects of a modern economy, from the cooling of vaccines to irrigation pumping, to manufacturing and running a business. The achievement of SDG 7.1 will require a thoughtful mix of policy, finance, and technology to be designed and implemented at scale. Yet, the pressing need for an electrification ramp-up is not unprecedented. Many countries (now considered “industrialized”) faced similar challenges about a century ago. Although the existing literature covers a great deal of power systems evolution, there is a gap around the specific role and impact of small, isolated power systems in the early stages of electricity uptake. In this paper, we provide insights based on the review of the historical electrification efforts in four (now middle and high-income) countries. The drivers and context of electrification efforts in early stages are described. Those focus particularly on the role of dispersed, small-scale generation systems (mini-grids). Our analysis shows that electrification follows four loosely defined phases, namely: pilot projects, technological roll-out, economic expansion, and social scale-up. We report a selection of historical mistakes and advances that offer lessons of striking importance for today´s energy access efforts, particularly in regards to the development of mini-grids. We find that today, as historically, multi-stakeholder (e.g., planners, regulators, developers, investors, third party actors) collaboration is key and can help build locally adaptable, economically sustainable and community compatible mini-grids that can accelerate—and lower the societal costs of—universal access to electricity. View Full-Text
Keywords: Mini-grids; Electrification; History of power systems; SDG 7 Mini-grids; Electrification; History of power systems; SDG 7
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MDPI and ACS Style

Korkovelos, A.; Zerriffi, H.; Howells, M.; Bazilian, M.; Rogner, H.-H.; Fuso Nerini, F. A Retrospective Analysis of Energy Access with a Focus on the Role of Mini-Grids. Sustainability 2020, 12, 1793.

AMA Style

Korkovelos A, Zerriffi H, Howells M, Bazilian M, Rogner H-H, Fuso Nerini F. A Retrospective Analysis of Energy Access with a Focus on the Role of Mini-Grids. Sustainability. 2020; 12(5):1793.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Korkovelos, Alexandros, Hisham Zerriffi, Mark Howells, Morgan Bazilian, H-Holger Rogner, and Francesco Fuso Nerini. 2020. "A Retrospective Analysis of Energy Access with a Focus on the Role of Mini-Grids" Sustainability 12, no. 5: 1793.

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