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Rural electricity access in South Asia: Is grid extension the remedy: A critical review

Palit Debajit, Bandyopadhyay Kaushik Ranjan , 2016

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol 60 (2016): 1505–1515p.

Abstract

Despite the historical priority to grid-based electrification in South Asia, two out of every five people in the region still live without access to electricity. Due to various limitations of conventional grid-based rural electrification, as brought out by a number of studies and reports, demand for alternative models such as renewable energy based off-grid and distributed generation solutions are gaining increasing attention globally. However, due to the absence of any study that could juxtapose these two modes in terms of their merits and demerits, it is difficult to infer on their relative superiority or inferiority. In view of that, this paper makes an attempt to connect the dots by carrying out an extensive review of the literature, to analyse the role of grid and off-grid options in facilitating rural electrification, and come out with a comparative assessment of their costs and impacts on the South Asian countries. The paper infers that instead of considering each of the modes of electrification in a standalone manner and perceiving them as mutually exclusive or competing with one another, as usually perceived in the policy sphere, off-grid electrification can actually be considered as a complementary mode and should ideally be integrated with grid expansion to serve the bigger cause of ensuring universal and sustainable rural electrification in South Asia.