The unlocked potential of solar home systems; an effective way to overcome domestic energy poverty in developing regions

Publication date: March 2019

Source: Renewable Energy, Volume 132

Author(s): Ghassan Zubi, Gian Vincenzo Fracastoro, Juan M. Lujano-Rojas, Khalil El Bakari, David Andrews


Energy poverty in developing regions is a major global concern, with the rural areas of South Asia, South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected. The major residential energy consumption in these regions is for cooking and lighting, which is basically covered with traditional biomass and fossil fuels. This situation acts as a development barrier, while implying stress on resources and the environment. Solar home systems (SHS) can play an important role in overcoming this problem. Recent technological advances and cost reductions in lithium-ion batteries favour their use in such application. Domestic electric devices with outstanding energy efficiency are becoming the standard around the globe. This paper focuses on exploiting these innovations to provide a solution for domestic energy poverty in developing regions. The layout of a SHS that integrates a lithium-ion battery-pack and is complemented with LED lamps and an energy efficient multicooker is presented. The paper assesses the SHS in contrast with existing practices under domestic energy poverty, with consideration of the learning curve. It is concluded that the cost of energy of the SHS is slightly cheaper than the business as usual case on the short term, and notably cheaper on the longer run. Furthermore, a financing scheme is proposed to overcome implementation barriers. Government support is considered, and quantified based on the SHS carbon abatement and saved fossil fuel subsidies. A substantial share of the initial investment can be covered under such scheme. This case study allows to draw general conclusions on the potential of SHS as a solution for domestic energy poverty in developing regions, on the financing gaps that hamper implementation and eventually on the required actions to overcome these.

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