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The economics of renewable energy expansion in rural Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Deichmann, Uwe
  • Meisner, Craig
  • Murray, Siobhan
  • Wheeler, David

Accelerating development in Sub-Saharan Africa will require massive expansion of access to electricity--currently reaching only about one third of households. This paper explores how essential economic development might be reconciled with the need to keep carbon emissions in check. We develop a geographically explicit framework and use spatial modeling and cost estimates from recent engineering studies to determine where stand-alone renewable energy generation is a cost effective alternative to centralized grid supply. Our results suggest that decentralized renewable energy will likely play an important role in expanding rural energy access. However, it will be the lowest cost option for a minority of households in Africa, even when likely cost reductions over the next 20 years are considered. Decentralized renewables are competitive mostly in remote and rural areas, while grid connected supply dominates denser areas where the majority of households reside. These findings underscore the need to decarbonize the fuel mix for centralized power generation as it expands in Africa.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

Volume (Year): 39 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 215-227

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Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:39:y:2011:i:1:p:215-227
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  1. Piet Buys & Uwe Deichmann & Craig Meisner & Thao Ton That & David Wheeler, 2009. "Country stakes in climate change negotiations: two dimensions of vulnerability," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 288-305, May.
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  4. Parshall, Lily & Pillai, Dana & Mohan, Shashank & Sanoh, Aly & Modi, Vijay, 2009. "National electricity planning in settings with low pre-existing grid coverage: Development of a spatial model and case study of Kenya," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2395-2410, June.
  5. Xavier Gabaix & Yannis M. Ioannides, 2003. "The Evolution of City Size Distributions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0310, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  6. Khandker, Shahidur R. & Barnes, Douglas F. & Samad, Hussain A., 2009. "Welfare impacts of rural electrification : a case study from Bangladesh," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4859, The World Bank.
  7. Kebede, Ellene & Kagochi, John & Jolly, Curtis M., 2010. "Energy consumption and economic development in Sub-Sahara Africa," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 532-537, May.
  8. Marti­nez, Daniel M. & Ebenhack, Ben W., 2008. "Understanding the role of energy consumption in human development through the use of saturation phenomena," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 1430-1435, April.
  9. Kevin Ummel & David Wheeler, 2008. "Desert Power: The Economics of Solar Thermal Electricity for Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East," Working Papers 156, Center for Global Development.
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