Improving Electricity Access Through Microgrids in Africa

Duke University is partnering with CrossBoundary LLC, the Rockefeller Foundation, and leading microgrid providers in East Africa to identify and evaluate interventions to improve the economic sustainability of microgrids in areas not served by the grid. These include programs to reduce capital expenditures, increase use and expenditures, and ultimately improve microgrid capabilities and long-term viability.

Duke researchers are partnering with leading solar microgrid companies in East Africa to evaluate the effects of programs to enhance the long term economic viability of community microgrid installations. In many cases in the past, microgrid infrastructure has not been maintained, resulting in the suspension of service to communities that are not connected to the electrical grid. CrossBoundary LLC and the Rockefeller Foundation are working with leading microgrid developers on a series of “Business Lab” interventions that may result in better prospects for long-term economic viability.

These include innovative programs to reduce capital expenditures (capex) and explore options for low-cost modular system construction, as well as novel programs to increase revenue generation such as facilitating bundled services, device financing, and temporary price reductions that may result in “sticky” behavioral change. Duke is working alongside other academic partners to design these interventions so as to maximize learning and external applicability, and to rigorously evaluate the effects. This work will support long-term economic viability of sustainably powered microgrids for rural and peri-urban electrification across the countries in the study and beyond.

Funding