Renewable energy-based mini-grids can be an important alternative to, or enhance the effectiveness of, central grid extension as a way to increase access to reliable electricity services. While there are a number of challenges to implementing RE mini-grids, many of these can be addressed by well-conceived policy measures. In this study, we provide a framework for mini-grid policy design underpinned by specific implementation examples from seven different countries – China, India, Brazil, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Tanzania. These nations have chosen specific models for the institutional, technical and financial components in their mini-grid policies with varying results. Through our study, we highlight the critical policy components, and their interplay, that are required for sustainable deployment and operation of RE mini-grids.
Our policy framework hinges on the definition of six elements of sustainability which should be explicitly considered in policy design from the perspective of all stakeholders: a) technical sustainability to ensure long-term reliable operation of mini-grids, b) economic sustainability that ensures affordable as well as a financially viable mini-grids, c) socially coherent deployment with value-adding community involvement, d) equitable access to electricity services, e) minimal environmental footprint, and f) potential for scaling up the deployment of mini-grids. We use these elements of sustainability to provide recommendations for designing the institutional, technical, and economic components of mini-grid policies.
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