Article published in Energies — Open Access Energy Research, Engineering and Policy Journal, 2017, 10
Some 630 million people representing two-thirds of all Africans have no access to electricity, which is identified as a key barrier towards further development. Three main electrification options are considered within our work: grid extensions, mini-grids and solar home systems (SHS). A methodology is applied to all sub-Saharan African countries to identify in high geospatial resolution which electrification option is appropriate taking into account datasets for night light imagery, population distribution and grid infrastructure. Four different scenarios are considered reflecting grid development and electrification constraints due to low population density. The results clearly indicate a dominating role of SHS for achieving a fast electrification of the not supplied people. The share of supplied people by mini-grids is found to be rather low while grid extension serves a large share of the population. The decisive factors for these distinctions are population density and distance to grid. We applied several scenarios and sensitivities to understand the influence of these key parameters. The highest trade-off happens between SHS and grid extension depending on the selected thresholds. Mini-grid deployments remain in the range of 8 to 21%.