£2million research grant for off-grid electricity projects

By staff writers
July 22, 2009

A research consortium led by the University of Dundee has been awarded a £2million grant to explore means of generating and supplying power to rural areas in developing countries which do not have access to centralised electricity networks.

Over 1 billion people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, mostly due to geographical and poverty issues. The problem is likely to continue in the future as population of these regions grows.

“There has been some examination in the past of the kinds of
technology that could be used to help provide electricity supply in areas like this, whether it be solar energy or bio-energy and so on,” said Dr Subhes Bhattacharyya, of the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee, who will lead the project.

“However, what needs to be looked at in much greater detail are the institutional arrangements, socio-economic acceptability of the solutions and commercial viability of the options, all of which are vital to understanding how we can provide a sustainable electricity supply.

“It is about looking at the whole picture – how do we provide the
electricity, who pays for it, what can it be used to do. This is not just about powering up television or running lightbulbs, we have to look at how supply can be connected to remote regions and how it can best be used for the people there, and how they can sustain it themselves.”

The five-year inter-disciplinary project brings together researchers from the University of Dundee, the University of Manchester, UCL (University College London), and two Indian organisations, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and TERI University. They will concentrate on finding innovative and alternative methods of decentralised off-grid electricity generation and on developing business models for off-grid electricity supply.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) and the Department for International Development (DfID) awarded the research grant to the consortium as part of their objectives to promote links between the UK and developing country universities and to facilitate knowledge and technological transfer to help alleviate developing country poverty.

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