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Microgrids for Energy Access

Microgrids for Energy Access

“Falling costs, new technologies, and favourable enabling environments have made mini-grids an option to connect 490 million people”, says a 2019 report by the World Bank group. CSL Paris is now exploring the opportunity of a new research line revolving around the understanding of the complex interplay between the setting up of off-grid mini-grids in developing countries and the triggering of emerging economies. The access to electricity can bootstrap new economic activities able, on their turn, to cover the cost of the electrification. This scheme allows reverting the top-down system for access to the technology to a bottom-up scheme where people become owners of the technology to produce and sell renewable energy.

Minigrids and Microgrids will play a key role in the sustainable electrification of many rural areas in Africa and South and South-East Asia. At CSL we are now building a research agenda aimed at facing the following challenges: the bootstrap problem for off-grid mini-grids, their scalability and the technological challenges, the energy trading, and the different business models. To this end, CSL will exploit its existing expertise in energy markets, data science, and modelling tools. Dynamic Pricing Pilot with SOLshareWe started a collaboration with SOLshare, a Bangladeshi startup who is deploying P2P microgrids in rural Bangladesh. They interconnect solar home systems so that excess energy can be sold in real-time to neighbours using mobile money. Since these are off-grid microgrids, the available energy is limited.

A key challenge is to determine a price for selling or buying electricity that reduces the energy wasted when batteries are full and also increases the availability of energy in the microgrid. We have designed a pilot to explore how to use price signals to incentive customers to help to manage the limited energy resources more efficiently. A carefully designed communication strategy has been designed to obtain feedback from real customers. At CSL, we are building models to observe the impact of various exchange and pricing models using data from the microgrid. The aim is to gain insights on the energy exchange dynamic and improve business models for P2P energy trading in such a grid. In the future, we plan to expand the model to different countries and settings.