Creating resilient sustainable micro-grids through hybrid renewable energy systems
Grant: £1.26m EPSRC-funded
Dates: May 2018 – April 2021 (3 year project)
Principal investigator: Professor Jon Lovett
Co-investigators: Dr Petros Aristidou, Professor Kang Li, Professor Peter Taylor, Dr Rolf Crook, Dr Valerie Dupont, Professor Jenny Jones, Dr Hu Li, Dr Andrew Ross, Ms Mary Suzan Abbo (CREEC), Dr Consalva Msigwa (DIT), Professor Bernard M’Passi-Mabiala (UMN), Dr Elizabeth Rianawati (RDI)
Post-doctoral research assistants: James Hammerton, Cheng Wen, Shahab Dehghan
- Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC), Uganda
- Dar-es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), Tanzania
- Université Marien Ngouabi, Congo-Brazzaville
- Resilience Development Initiative (RDI), Indonesia
Globally, one in five people still lack access to modern electricity, and 3 billion people rely on traditional fuels for heating and cooking. This project seeks to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal 7, which is to “improve access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
Small-scale renewable energy technologies are now available at an affordable price, and it is no longer necessary to have a costly centralised energy infrastructure, particularly one powered by fossil fuels with the consequent influence on climate change.
The project aims to enable the development of sustainable and resilient energy distribution grids in rural communities of the low and middle-income countries: Tanzania, Uganda and Republic of the Congo, where currently, at most, 10% of the rural population has access to electricity.
The research takes an integrated holistic approach, drawing on field data and experience in Africa to focus on actual needs and local realities. This ensures the development of micro-grid scenarios that can be applied to realistic situations. Taking this approach will lead to mini-grids designed to be maintainable, have good longevity with low cost, meet diverse community energy needs and be resilient to natural hazards.
Knowledge and experience drawn from the Indonesian Iconic Islands project (which looked at small-scale renewable energy on islands that can’t be reached by large-scale energy infrastructure) will be transferred to the design and implementation of micro-grids in the African context.
- Develop a distribution system design methodology for resilient sustainable mini-grids that combines both the planning and real-time operational design into a single joint design stage
- Provide a sustainable, reliable and flexible generation pool for the mini-grids on the basis of a hybrid biofuel-solar system, modelling the availability of renewable resources capable of contributing to the mini-grid network and understand the capacity for integrated hybrid solutions to provide increased resilience
- Involve end-users in research, design, acceptance and adoption and ensure long-term sustainability and resilience through creation of the appropriate incentive structures to install and maintain the mini-grids
- Train 3 UK post-doctoral research assistants (two power and energy systems, one energy socio-economics) in holistic design methods for hybrid sustainable mini-grids
The people who will benefit from this research are those without access to modern clean energy supplies. It is estimated by the African Development Bank that over 645 million Africans (approximately 40% of the continent’s population) have no access to electricity. In general, the rural population is poorer than the urban and the economy is more hand-to-mouth or subsistence which does not allow for savings of money or obtaining assets. This means that many households cannot afford connection fees or even monthly electricity costs.
The innovations being researched by the programme are of the scale that can be taken up by small to medium scale entrepreneurs. This offers the potential for local private sector investment to contribute to filling the energy supply gap. Training courses in the project will include entrepreneurial skills and the project will include networking with entrepreneurs. The existing partnership platform has good links with local renewable energy businesses. They will be integrated into the project from the outset.
- EPSRC project grant webpage
- University of Leeds project page (School of Geography)
- RDI Webinar – Digital global Biogas Cooperation