Rural electrification

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Rural electrification is the process of bringing electrical power to rural and remote areas. Electricity is used not only for lighting and household purposes, but it also allows for mechanization of many farming operations, such as well-pumping, threshing, milking, and silo filling. In areas facing labor shortages, this allows for greater productivity at reduced cost. Electrification began in cities and towns and gradually extended to rural areas. An inherent challenge of extending electrical grids into the countryside is that doing so is expensive, but amortizing its capital cost well enough to sufficiently reduce the unit cost of each hook-up is harder to do in lightly populated areas (yielding higher per capita share of the expense). One famous program was the New Deal's Rural Electrification Administration in the United States, which pioneered many of the schemes still practiced in other countries.

At least a billion people worldwide still lack household electric power - a population equal to that of the entire world in the early 19th century.

As of the mid 2010s an estimated 200 to 300 million people in India (15 to 20 percent of the total population) lack electricity as well as seven out of eight rural Sub-Saharan Africans. Many more receive only intermittent and poor quality electric power.[1][2] In 2012 Some 23% of people in East Java, Indonesia, a core region, also lack electricity, as surveyed in 2013.[3]

It is estimated that the absolute number of people without power was growing until the late 1980s when rural electrification programs, particularly in East Asia, outpaced the growth of human populations.[1][4] Up from about 1.84 billion in 1970, approximately 2.01 billion (equal to the world population in 1927)[5] people in developing countries still lacked household electric power in 1990 (the year the World Wide Web was invented) [1] - about 38 percent of the world's population at that time, 51 percent of the population of so-called developing countries, and 67 percent of rural parts of the developing world.

The International Energy Agency estimates that, if current trends do not change, the number of people without electricity will rise to 1.2 billion by the year 2030. Due to high population growth, the number of people without electricity is expected to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Social and economic benefits[edit]

  • Allow activities to occur after daylight hours, including education. In impoverished and undeveloped areas, small amounts of electricity can free large amounts of human time and labor. In the poorest areas, people carry water and fuel by hand, their food storage may be limited, and their activity is limited to daylight hours.[6]
  • Reduce isolation through telecoms[7]
  • Improve safety with the implementation of street lighting, lit road signs.
  • Improve healthcare by electrifying remote rural clinics.
  • Reduces the need for candles and kerosene lamps with their inherent fire safety risks and improves indoor air quality.
  • Improve productivity, through the use of electricity for irrigation, crop processing, and other activities.


Due to their geographical location and low demand compared to the area, rural areas are mainly suitable for renewable energy off grid applications. Renewable energies based mini grids are less dependent on larger-scale infrastructure and could be placed in service faster.[8] Where an electric power distribution grid can be set up single wire earth return is often used. The following technologies are used extensively:[8]

  • Photovoltaics
  • Wind mechanical water pumps
  • Small wind electric
  • Diesel solar hybrid power systems: especially for telecommunications worldwide. Fully commercial and the preferred option for remote telecommunications, commercially evolving for village power.
  • Bioenergy
  • Micro hydro is very widely implemented in Nepal, Vietnam, and China.
  • Hybrid power is also widely used where a number of different technologies are combined to provide a single power source.[9]

Continental and national initiatives[edit]


In 2006, financed under the Energy Facility Program and promoted by the French consulting firm, Innovation Energie Développement (IED), was created the Club of national agencies and structures in charge of rural electrification (Club-ER). More than 17 African countries are now members of this south-south initiative with IED as secretariat. The CLUB-ER has the purpose to accelerate the development of rural electrification in Africa by creating the conditions for a mutually beneficial sharing of experiences between agencies and national structures in charge of rural electrification.


Senegal's electricity sector was reformed in 1998. Since then the country has implemented several electrification initiatives:

  • A national Senegalese Rural Electrification Action Plan (Plan d'Action Sénégalais d'Électrification Rurale), designed to increase private sector participation in rural electrification (details below);
  • Covenants and an Emergency Programme (Programme d'Urgence d'Électrification Rurale), both led and funded largely by the Government of Senegal;
  • Individual projects led by NGOs and private companies.[10]

The Senegalese Rural Electrification Action Plan was launched in 2002 with the aim of maximising investment from the private sector. It raised an average of 49% private finance over 2002-2012,[10] more than double the 22% global average for energy access projects.[11] However, during the same period it directly increased rural electrification levels by less than 1%.[10] Analysis by Mawhood and Gross (2014) indicates that the Action Plan has faced considerable political and institutional barriers, notably institutional opposition, wavering ministerial support and lengthy stakeholder negotiations, as well as the inherent difficulties of implementing an innovative policy framework.[10][12] Although the Action Plan has been very successful at attracting private finance, the political/institutional challenges it has faced reflect the experiences of reform-based electrification schemes across Sub-Saharan Africa.[10][12] This highlights the importance of designing initiatives to fit the local policy environment.


In 1981, 74.9% of Brazilian households were served by electric power, according to the IBGE's National Sample Survey of Households (PNAD). In 2000, the Federal government of Brazil, under the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration, launched the Luz no Campo program to expand the distribution of electricity in Brazilian domiciles, with a focus on rural households. From 2003 on, the program was reinforced and renamed Luz para Todos by the Lula administration. The results were that, according to the PNAD, by 1996, 79.9% of all households had access to an electric power supply and that proportion rose to 90.8% in 2002 and 98.9% in 2009.


By 2015, 100 percent of Chinese people had access to electric power. [13][14] In the early 1990s the countryside of China still suffered from extreme energy poverty; more than 40 percent of rural Chinese had no access to power or electric lighting at all, depending instead on kerosene lamps for lighting. In the early 1990s the average use of power in the countryside amounted to the equivalent of a 60W light bulb switched on for less than 30 minutes a day. [15]

China launched the China Township Electrification Program in 2001 to provide renewable electricity to 1,000 townships, one of the largest of such programs in the world. This was followed by the China Village Electrification Program, also using renewable energy, aimed at the electrification of a further 3.5 million households in 10,000 villages by 2010, to be followed by full rural electrification by 2015.[16] In December 2015, China brought the last 39,800 Chinese onto the national electric grid by spending $324 million and using over 5,000 workers to wire 2 extremely remote villages in Quighai province located at altitudes of 13,100 ft.[14]


As of 2012, 304 million Indians (24 percent of the population) were without electricity. [17] India has 18% of the world's population but 40% of the world's population without electricity.[18] Rural areas in India are electrified non-uniformly, with richer states being able to provide a majority of the villages with power while poorer states still struggling to do so. The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited was formed to specifically address the issue of providing electricity in all the villages across the country. Poverty, lack of resources, lack of political will, poor planning, and electricity theft are some of the major causes which have left many villages in India without electricity, while urban areas have enjoyed growth in electricity consumption and capacity. The central government is increasingly trying to improve the dire conditions by investing heavily in biogas, solar as well as wind energy. Programs such as The JNN solar mission, and Pradhan Mantri Gram Vidyut Yojana is also known as the Saubhagya Scheme have been announced to fasten the pace of electrification and diversify the procedure. The work is also on-going for reducing wastage, providing better equipment and improving the overall infrastructure for electrical transmissions in villages. Currently, all the villages in India have been electrified w.e.f. 29 April 2018[19] but it doesn't mean that all households are electrified. As of August 2018, 91% of the total households are electrified in India.

A breakdown is provided below on the number of states and UTs (Union Territories) that have been electrified :

Rural electrification rate State/UT (Electrification rate, Unelectrified villages)[20]
100% All 29 states and 7 union territories

European Union[edit]

In Europe exists the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), an international non-profit organization founded in 2006.[21] ARE promotes the use of renewable energy in developing countries. ARE is partner of the United Nations Global Compact and the only business association of the United Nation Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative.


During the 1930s most towns in Ireland were connected to the national grid. The outbreak of World War II in Europe lead to shortages of fuel and materials and the electrification process was brought to a virtual halt. In the early 1950s the Rural Electrification scheme gradually brought electric power to the countryside, a process that was completed on the mainland in 1973 (although it wasn't until 2003 that the last of the inhabited offshore islands were fully connected). Currently the Rural Electrification scheme continues, but is primarily concerned with upgrading the quality of the network (voltage fluctuations are still a problem in parts of Ireland - particularly in rural areas) and making three phase supplies available to larger farms and rural businesses requiring it.

United States[edit]

In 1892, Guy Beardslee, the original owner of Beardslee Castle, was paid $40,000 to provide hydroelectric power to East Creek in New York.

Despite widespread electricity in cities, by the 1920s electricity was not delivered by power companies to rural areas because of the general belief that the infrastructure costs would not be recouped. In sparsely-populated farmland, there were far fewer houses per mile of installed electric lines. A Minnesota state committee was organized to carry out a study of the costs and benefits of rural electrification.[22] The University of Minnesota Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, working jointly with Northern States Power Company (NSP, now Xcel Energy), conducted an experiment, providing electricity to nine farms in the Red Wing area. Electricity was first delivered on December 24, 1923.[23] The "Red Wing Project" was successful- the power company and the University concluded that rural electrification was economically feasible. The results of the report were influential in the National government's decision to support rural electrification.

Before 1936, a small but growing number of farms installed small wind-electric plants. These generally used a 40V DC generator to charge batteries in the barn or the basement of the farmhouse. This was enough to provide lighting, washing machines and some limited well-pumping or refrigeration. Wind-electric plants were used mostly on the Great Plains, which have usable winds on most days.

In 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority was created, in part, to provide rural electrification in the Tennessee Valley and surrounding areas. TVA created the generation and wholesale transmission capabilities that enabled rural distribution systems through electric cooperatives.

Of the 6.3 million farms in the United States in January 1925, only 205,000 were receiving centralized electric services.[24] The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was created by executive order as an independent federal bureau in 1935, authorized by the United States Congress in the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, and later in 1939, reorganized as a division of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. It was charged with administering loan programs for electrification and telephone service in rural areas. Between 1935 and 1939 – or the first 4½ years after REA's establishment, the number of farms using electric services more than doubled.[24]

The REA undertook to provide farms with inexpensive electric lighting and power. To implement those goals the administration made long-term, self-liquidating loans to state and local governments, to farmers' cooperatives, and to nonprofit organizations; no loans were made directly to consumers. In 1949 the REA was authorized to make loans for telephone improvements; in 1988, REA was permitted to give interest-free loans for job creation and rural electric systems. By the early 1970s about 98% of all farms in the United States had electric service, a demonstration of REA's success. In 1994 the administration was reorganized into the Rural Utilities Service by the Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act of 1994 and the Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994.

In September 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would spend $398.5 million in infrastructure projects, by way of loans, that seek to improve electricity service in rural areas. The program is called the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program. Of the $398.5 million, $43 million will be to invest in smart grid technology. According to Smart Cities Dive, "The largest loan will send $68.5 million to back a solar farm run by NextEra Energy Resources in Arkansas, which could meet the needs of 21,000 homes." The loans will go to projects in 13 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.[25]


The Rural Electrification Programme (REP) was incorporated in 1975 with the specific mandate to expand the reach of electricity supply to rural areas, where the provision of such services would not be economically viable for commercial providers of electricity. The REP extends the national grid through the construction of electrical distribution pole lines to un-electrified areas and provides house wiring assistance through a loan programme to householders.

In June 2012 Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell disclosed that, approximately 16,000 homes in remote parts of the island which do not have electricity are to be supplied with solar or wind electricity through the Rural Electrification Programme (REP). At a USAID-funded Analysis and Investigation for Low Emission (AILEG) project symposium, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, on Tuesday, July 9, 2013, Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell stated that the REP has also been mandated to complete its target of providing electricity to 100 per cent of rural areas. "Those three per cent that now remain are in areas that are so far from the grid, it is too expensive (to provide), and we are going to be deploying photovoltaic systems in these areas," he explained. In March 2015 he told a newspaper that, by 2017, "we should no longer have REP in the way we do now", adding that if the Government finds it too challenging to run power lines into communities, it will use solar."

See Also Solar Power in Jamaica

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Two Billion People Gain Electricity Access: 1970-2010".
  2. ^ "Worst India Outage Highlights 60 Years of Missed Targets". 1 August 2012 – via
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Rural Energy And Development 1996.pdf". Google Docs.
  6. ^ Tazhmoye V. Crawford (December 2009). "Alternate electrification and non-potable water: A health concern for Jamaicans" (PDF). North American Journal of Medical Sciences. Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  7. ^ Electrification, Alliance for Rural. "Alliance for Rural Electrification: Uses of electricity". Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  8. ^ a b Electrification, Alliance for Rural. "Alliance for Rural Electrification: Technologies". Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  9. ^ Ginn, Claire. "Energy pick n' mix: are hybrid systems the next big thing?". CSIRO. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e Mawhood, R. and Gross, R. (2014) "Institutional barriers to a 'perfect' policy: A case study of the Senegalese Rural Electrification Plan", Energy Policy, DOI 10.1016/j.enpol.2014.05.047. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  11. ^ IEA (2011) "World Energy Outlook 2011" Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  12. ^ a b Mawhood, B. and Gross, R. (2015) "Are Private Markets Effective for Rural Electrification?", The Energy Collective. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b "China achieves goal of electricity for all - Times of India".
  15. ^ Smil, Vaclav (6 May 1993). "China's Environmental Crisis: An Inquiry Into the Limits of National Development". M.E. Sharpe – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Renewables Global Status Report 2006 Update Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine., REN21, published 2006, accessed 2007-05-16
  17. ^ "Without electricity, 1.3 billion are living in the dark". Washington Post.
  18. ^ "Much of Rural India Still Waits for Electricity". 25 February 2015.
  19. ^ "The rural electrification in India". The wire. 29 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Progress report of village electrification". Government of India.
  21. ^ "The Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE)". The Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE).
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b Beall, Robert T. (1940). "Rural Electrification." United States Yearbook of Agriculture. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture. p. 790-809. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  25. ^ "USDA invests $400M in rural electricity upgrades, smart grids". Smart Cities Dive. Retrieved 2018-09-27.

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