Scaling-up access to energy solutions in Eastern Africa : overcoming the barriers to the large-scale deployment of clean energy mini-grids
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- Master Thesis 
With over 130 million people still lacking access to clean and modern sources of electricity, the access to energy gap is still wide open in the five countries of East Africa’s Great Lakes region. The national strategies revolving around a central grid have failed to achieve electrification rates exceeding 30%. Advancements in renewable energy technologies and the emergence of innovative delivery models are challenging the old centralized paradigm. Off-grid, autonomous solutions at the household or community levels offer new perspectives for a fast-paced electrification. Among the most promising solutions to off-grid electrification are solar mini-grid systems. Private developers are currently piloting trial models throughout the region. Significant barriers remain to the viable scale-up of these systems. Governments have an important role to play by promoting more stable regulatory frameworks, license agreements, and offering the subsidies which may still be needed in some cases. Business model orientations need to be tailored to the context served, and demand must be promoted and sustained to reach acceptable levels of revenue in order to break even. The financing sector must also play a part by recognizing the need for patient sources of capital with limited return expectations. Delivering a basic service to low-income households via capital-intensive infrastructures will not result in exponential profits. Developing appropriate financing sources would limit the costs of capital the risk of private developers being pressured to scale too fast. If the sector can address these policy, business model and financing barriers, mini-grids could realize their fantastic potential and electrify millions in the next few years. The success of mini-grids could go a long way in achieving the international community objective of universal access to clean and modern energy by 2030.