ENERGY FOR RURAL
Rural areas in developing countries have
limited access to all types of services,
including health, clean water supplies,
communication and roads. This lack of access
is also true for energy services. Nearly a third
of the world’s population do not have access
to grid electricity and the majority of these
people live in rural areas of developing
Most of these people have no hope of being
connected to a mains electricity grid in the
foreseeable future, despite the political
pressure of governments to increase grid
connectivity. Given the choice, and the
money, most people would opt to switch to
Household electricity consumption
Electricity consumption shows large variations
depending on climate, culture, reliability of
supply, and location. Generally, rural
households in developing countries have very
low consumption, with the primary uses being
lighting, radio and television.
Figure 1: Domestic lighting. Micro-hydro
project which supplies electricity to the
community at Galyang Nepal. Photo credit:
The load factor is a measure of actual energy
Practical Action / Caroline Penn.
used compared to the maximum possible
energy available for use. For small-scale
energy delivery it is important to know the load factor and the peak energy demand in order to
extract the best possible use form the energy system. In most cases the load factor within the
rural setting is below 0.2 but peak demand can often exceed capacity.
Where lighting is the only significant use of electricity, monthly consumption tends to be in
the range of 10 to 20 kWh. Two 40-watt incandescent bulbs used for five hours each night,
for example, have a monthly consumption of 12 kWh. A radio-cassette player and a small fan
can be used for 10 hours each day for an additional consumption of 10 to 15 kWh per month.
A small colour TV used for 6 hours a day will add a further 10 kWh a month. A family could
accommodate all these uses easily within a consumption range of 50 to 60 kWh a month. A
refrigerator uses about 50 kWh and a freezer around 100 kWh a month. Ideally, extra demand
would occur during off-peak periods in the middle of the day. Efforts have been made to
increase the use of electricity in commercial activities that will use energy during this time,
while limiting demand at peak periods.
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