Optimal electrification planning in Sub-Saharan African countries

Chen, Meiyan, M.S. in Energy and Earth Resources
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Access to reliable, sustainable, and affordable electricity services is essential for quality of life and economic development. However, ~53% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) live without access to electricity. Due to its rapid population growth and accelerated urbanization, Africa is a key driver of global energy demand growth. However, to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7, which aims to achieve 100% electricity access by 2030, the region is faced with dual challenges of providing access to the 600 million people who currently lack electricity access while reaching the millions born every year in areas without access to electricity. A variety of local and national studies have been undertaken in recent years to provide feasible electrification solutions. This study first investigates the historical evolution and the current situation of electricity supply and demand, in order to reveal the links between electrification and socio-economic factors as well as energy resources exploration. Next, utilizing an open-source Spatial Electrification Tool (OnSSET), this study seeks the least cost electrification options for SSA countries, including grid-connection, mini-grid, and stand-alone systems, and analyzed the sensitivity of the results to projected population, energy targets, grid generation costs, diesel prices, and solar costs, etc. The results show that electrification rates vary spatially across SSA. Large electrification gaps exist between urban and rural areas in SSA, with 78% of the urban population and 27% of the rural population in SSA having electricity access in 2018. Electrification increased substantially in SSA from 25% in 2000 to 47% in 2018. East African countries, such as Ethiopia and Kenya, were leading the increase. The OnSSET model results suggest that, in urban areas with most of the population and close to transmission lines, grid extension is usually the least cost option, while stand-alone or mini-grid options are more economical in rural areas with less population and electricity demand. Detailed analysis of Angola and Senegal using the OnSSET model shows that for a certain level of access, the projected population connected to the grid ranges from ~70% in Angola to ~90% in Senegal by 2030. Considering a scenario with emission costs and renewable subsidies, with higher grid generation costs and lower solar cost, mini-grid solar or stand-alone solar options are favorable for more areas than grid extension