Socio-economic analysis of solar photovoltaic-based mini-grids in rural communities: A Ugandan case study
The provision of electricity in rural areas has been an outstanding need in trying to achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. However, most sub-Saharan countries have found this difficult due to financial constraints. Uganda tried to increase rural electrification to more than 20% of its population by 2020 through Rural Electrification Agency programmes. In an attempt to realise SDGs and the National Vision by 2040, Uganda is investing more in renewable energy sources, especially solar photovoltaic mini-grids to ensure that rural areas access affordable, reliable, and sustainable modern energy. This paper assesses the operation, causes of failure, causes of discomfort for mini-grid connected customers, and customer behavior of two solar photovoltaic mini-grids located in Kyenjojo District in western Uganda. It was found that the current energy demand exceeds the generation supply and that the systems need phase upgrades and clustering to remain economically viable and sustainable. The methodology involved re-sizing the existing load demand of the connected users, well-designed and administered questionnaires, analysis of published literature, review of the existing records, and interviews. Analysis was done in an Excel software program. The paper concludes by identifying the benefits and challenges of solar photovoltaic mini-grids in Kyenjojo District.
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