Climate Change Mitigation through Isolated Mini-Grid Systems in Rural Areas

  • Category: news
  • Published: Thursday, 31 October 2019 06:41
  • Written by Mr. Shuma
  • Hits: 135

Introduction

Mini-Grids for electrical generation and distribution systems of less than 10 MW have been highlighted by several development actors as a way of accelerating access to sustainable energy services in Africa. Electricity from mini-grids can serve an estimate of 140 million people in rural areas of Africa by 2040 in case a total of 200,000 mini-grids will be installed in Africa. A mini-grid is a stand-alone set of small-scale electricity generators and possibly energy storage systems that supplies electricity to a small, localized group of customers and operates independently from the national transmission grid. TaTEDO and WRI (2017) through their study, assessed renewable energy mini-grids impacts on the social-economic factors of rural population. One of the key advantages of mini-grids compared to single topology is the extent of the coverage of energy services to social and productive uses. The combination of solar PV system and Biomass gasifier can make significant contribution to reduce emissions and improve the environment.

Reliable and secure access to electricity has significant implications across many economic sectors, including water supply, production and agricultural processing, among others. Vulnerabilities in the electricity sector have the potential to magnify vulnerabilities in other sectors, producing cascading effects across economies and local communities. Resilient power systems are therefore critical in supporting cross-sectoral development in rural settings. The rural electrification through mini-grids has been introduced at Kibindu Village in the Coast Region of Tanzania to improved socio-economic functions and environment in the community including climate change mitigation

Renewable Energy Mini-Grid at Kibindu Village

The feasibility study performed in Kibindu Village before the introduction of the project revealed that more than 70% of households, SMEs and institutions in the village were using inefficient kerosene lamps and candles for lighting, which also causes in-door air pollution. Some SMEs in the village were using diesel generators and isolated solar PV systems to get electricity for their enterprises. Food preparation in households and institutions were performed by using firewood and charcoal which are harvested from natural forests and were utilized in inefficient cookstoves. These fuels are the main cause of in-door air pollution which also contributes to outdoor air pollution. Without light from clean and reliable electricity sources, it is difficult to provide quality social services and this also elongates time for

performing business services. Inadequate quality services in health centres, schools, commercial entities and households cause inability to run equipment, darkness, introduction of modern facilities, etc. while inadequate quality services in education institutions will lead to inability to use teaching aids, evening studies, etc. Use of kerosene for lighting in schools and health centres is also reason for high energy costs in the institutions which escalate energy budgets and also causes negative environment effects from inefficient energy technologies. The inability to access quality lighting and cooking facilities has been escalated by inadequate awareness, technical know-how and insufficient financing.

Improvement of Socio-Economic Attributes

The mini-grid for rural electrification installed at Kibindu village was developed by SESCOM as a subsidiary company of TaTEDO in collaboration with the Husk Power System (HPS). The project passed through two development phases. The first phase was to install a biomass gasifier plant (20kW) and distribute electricity through a mini-grid; connecting to 100 houses which include SMEs, institutions, households and the production and commercialization of green charcoal using the by-product of the gasification process. The second phase extended the mini-grid by installing a solar PV plant with the capacity to supply electricity to other 100 households.

Access to electricity in rural areas is widely recognized as a crucial element in economic development, and in supporting community resilience and climate change adaptation. Health and education are negatively impacted when electricity is not available, when medicines and vaccines cannot be refrigerated, and there is no lighting for evening studies. Access to clean water and food security is improved when there is electricity for pumps and irrigation. Additional income-generating activities become feasible when power is available for milling, cold storage, small-scale manufacturing, services, and information and communications technology. The installation of mini-grid in Kibindu village has increase ability of villagers to access modern services in health centre, schools and SMEs. Lights have enabled business enterprises in the village to be able to extend their business hours up to six hours in the night. New enterprises have emerged such as agro-processing machines, TV shows, stationery shops, refrigeration of drinks and foodstuffs, milling machines, etc. Some households are using clean cooking facilities. The SMEs which were using diesel generator before mini-grid electricity are now using clean electricity from mini-grid. The street lights are expected to be installed in the village which will improve security during the night.

Contribution to Environment and Climate Change

Renewable mini-grid electricity has largely replaced diesel generators in Kibindu by connectingSMEs into green mini-grids. New green mini-grid has entirely avoided the use of fossil fuels and has thereby helped to reduce and avoid CO2 emissions significantly. Electricity has also eliminated emissions from kerosene lumps and three-stone cookstoves as a result of using electric lighting and cooking facilities. Emissions from agro-wastes will be reduced through conversion of waste to energy.

Climate change has an impact on many sectors because of their reliance on natural resources.Valuable resources, such as land, forest, energy and water in the village are being exploited in such a way that it is changing the climate. Whilst, the systems providing these resources are themselves highly dependent on the climate and they are therefore vulnerable to climate change. This means that it is of great importance to manage the resources in an efficient and sustainable way, to minimize the impact on the environment and reduce the limit of the GHG emissions in conjunction with the exploitation of these resources. The forest is carbon sink which absorb CO2 emission from other sources. Development of mini-grid electricity at Kibindu is contributing to the efforts of reduction of deforestation since people in the village will reduce depletion of community natural forest.

Conclusion

There is a need to transform the electricity sector to meet future demand in rural areas through a large share of the electricity from mini-grids and the elctricity has to be generated from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass energy (bio-wastes). The abundance of renewable energy mini-grids in rural areas will as well contribute to the efforts of mitigating and adapting climate change as disuignated in the country’s NDC and NAPs to support implmentation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.