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Comprehensive approach to rural electrification planning and policymaking: a systemic roadmap for sustainable universal access to electricity

A. González-García, A. Moreno Romero, I.J. Pérez-Arriaga

Universal Access to electricity and modern domestic heat that satisfies a very essential level of service today, without compromising the satisfaction of future growth in energy needs accompanying the fulfillment of an equitable sustainable development of our communities, is a target within reach of our society. The achievement of this global goal requires careful consideration of a number of multidisciplinary national, regional, local and individual factors. It will require the massive attraction of private capital and, very likely, the implication of large energy corporations, though small and decentralized approaches, either transitory or not, can not be ruled out and are already taking place. Success will only take place where sustainable and attractive business models can be established, with the active engagement of the beneficiary communities. These models must include: a) The determination of the more adequate low-cost supply technologies for each customer according to its own location, consumption, needs, traits and circumstances, but approached comprehensively taking into account every user within a whole electrification region. b) A strong focus in the customer priorities to access energy services; domestic, communitarian and productive; adequate in quality and quantity; sustainable from the social, economical and environmental angles; which guarantees affordability by the least-advantaged population; with efficient and sufficient funding and financing mechanisms that match the needs of the different actors essential for the electrification process; and an adequate risk fencing mechanisms. c) A decisive political commitment to eradicate extreme energy poverty and to close the energy access gap; the integration and coordination of energy and other economic, social and sustainable development policies; a transparent and sound regulatory framework that clearly defines rights and obligations of the actors involved and, very specially, the remuneration rules for the provision of universal energy services. To this end, it is critical to acknowledge that in most of the environments, non-refundable grants and subsidies will be needed to cover the gap between the cost of electricity service and the capacity of payment of the beneficiaries (as always has been for the extension of the grid to rural areas, both in developing and developed countries). d) The governance mechanisms that harmonize the performance of those actors, paying close attention to the funding sources of the electrification process and the multiplicative attraction of private capital.

Keywords: Universal Access, rural electrification, planning, regulation, energy policy, Sustainable Energy for All, micro-grids, photovoltaic systems, grid extension, models, energy services, electrification levels, quality of service, governance

Registration date: 24/11/2016


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