By Beryl Onjala, Research Assistant at Nuvoni Research.
Among the many efforts to establish sustainable and reliable electricity access for the estimated 600 million people who lack it in sub-Saharan Africa, mini-grid projects are rapidly becoming a promising solution, especially to power households and enterprises within rural and marginalized areas. Households most commonly use energy from mini-grids for electric lighting and powering or charging other small electric appliances such as cellphones, televisions, and radios. Exclusively powering household needs, however, often leads to under-utilisation of the electricity generated by mini-grids. This is because we are yet to develop affordable, scale-able electricity storage technologies. In the case of solar-powered mini-grids, for instance, low daytime demand increases the risk that excess energy will have to be dumped when the batteries are full.
As a measure to address this challenge, mini-grid projects afford communities opportunities to use electricity beyond their immediate domestic needs by improving, for example, the efficiency of social ameniti