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Providing rural energy access in developing countries

The two regions where energy access remain a major challenge are Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This project develops a number of country studies looking at how sustainable development of rural energy access is being pursued. It shows how energy transition is proceeding in many countries in these regions and proposes a methodology to assess progress.

Access to electricity and clean energy is central to the development of any society. The governments and donor agencies in many countries have understood the magnitude of the energy access challenge and significant effort has been made in the recent past to address the challenges at global, regional and national levels. In fact, international commitments have been made aiming at reducing energy poverty and promoting sustainable development. However, there is still a challenge of providing access to reliable clean energy to 2.8 billion, and electricity to 1.2 billion people in the world.


The specific objectives of the research are to (i) analyze the influence of existing energy policy and programmes in the formation of markets for technologies to provide access to rural electrification; (ii) understand the determinants of technology choice for rural energy services and; (iii) develop and implement a method for evaluating rural energy sustainability.

Summary of accomplishments

To achieve the aforementioned objectives, the project analyses three empirical questions in the broader context of developing countries. The first question investigates the evolution of renewable energy technology markets in rural areas and the impact of prevailing policies on the formation and distribution of these markets, and the provision of electricity access. A case study was conducted in Nepal. The study has shown that the market-oriented policy mechanisms to promote RE based off-grid technologies have been instrumental for rural electrification in one of the least developed countries of the world.

The second research question is related to the determinants of technology choice for providing access to energy services (cooking fuels and electricity) as the fuel transition from conventional solid to modern cooking fuels in rural households is pursued. Different technological alternatives have been analyzed in the case of two low income countries Afghanistan and Nepal, taking Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) as the means to select cost effective options. The results present best fit conditions for various technological pathways in the two countries. In addition, the research explores the determinants of cooking fuel choices in the case of China. Choices are modelled (using MESSAGE–Access model) with standard economic variables such as income, technology costs and fuel prices, along with unique variables such as inconvenience cost. Future access scenarios are designed considering different policy options to accelerate the transition to clean fuels.

Taking a step further away from the case studies, the third research question has looked at methodological development to monitor and evaluate rural energy sustainability. This research introduces a method for assessing the sustainability of rural energy technologies used when providing electricity access. For the purpose of the analysis, the case of India has been evaluated. In addition, a method for evaluating progress of rural household energy sustainability in developing countries is proposed and applied to six developing countries (Bangladesh, China, Ghana, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa).

The findings of this research are helpful to identify the implications of policies in the evolution and expansion of energy markets and the potential role of new policy in bringing a swifter transition. The methods introduced for monitoring and evaluating sustainability help to track the progress made by various developing countries in terms of rural energy access, and provide a sound basis for a rural energy technology assessment.

Key Words:  

Energy access, Rural electrification, Rural energy, Household, Renewable energy, Off-grid, Mini-grid, Grid, Pathways, Fuel choice, Indicator, Sustainability index

Project leader

Prof. Semida Silveira


Prof. Semida Silveira

Dr. Brijesh Mainali


  1. Mainali, Brijesh; Silveira, Semida, 2015. Using a sustainability index to assess energy technologies for rural electrification. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 41, 1351-1365.

  2. Mainali, Brijesh; Pachauri, Shonali; Rao, Narasimha; Silveira, Semida, 2014. Assessing rural energy sustainability in developing countries. Energy for Sustainable Development, 19:15-28.

  3. Mainali, Brijesh 2014. Sustainability of rural energy access in developing countries, Doctoral Thesis, KTH-Royal Institute of Technology.

  4. Mainali, Brijesh; Silveira, Semida, 2013. Alternative pathways for providing access to electricity in developing countries. Renewable Energy, 57, 299-310.

  5. Mainali, Brijesh; Pachauri, Shonali; Nagai, Yu, 2012. Analyzing cooking fuel and stove choices in China till 2030. Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, vol 4: 0318051 -14.

  6. Mainali, Brijesh; Silveira, Semida, 2012. Renewable Energy Market in Rural Electrification: Country Case Nepal. Energy for Sustainable Development, 16: 168-178.

  7. Mainali, Brijesh; Silveira, Semida, 2011. Financing off-grid rural electrification: Country case Nepal.Energy, 36: 2194-2201.

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