Nearly 840 million people still lack access to electricity, while over a billion more have an unreliable electricity connection. In this article, the three different electrification pathways-grid extension, centralized microgrids, and standalone solar-based solutions, such as pico-solar and solar home systems (SHS)-are critically examined while understanding their relative merits and demerits. Grid extension can provide broad scale access at low levelized costs but requires a certain electricity demand threshold and population density to justify investments. To a lesser extent, centralized (off-grid) microgrids also require a minimum demand threshold and knowledge of the electricity demand. Solar-based solutions are the main focus in terms of off-grid electrification in this article, given the equatorial/tropical latitudes of the un(der-)electrified regions. In recent times, decentralized solar-based off-grid solutions, such as pico-solar and SHS, have shown the highest adoption rates and promising impetus with respect to basic lighting and electricity for powering small appliances. However, the burning question is-from lighting a million to empowering a billion-can solar home systems get us there?The two main roadblocks for SHS are discussed, and the requirements from the ideal electrification pathway are introduced. A bottom-up, interconnected SHS-based electrification pathway is proposed as the missing link among the present electrification pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number508
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Microgrids, Multi-tier framework, Rural electrification, SDG 7, Solar home systems

ID: 69929768