Social impacts of mini-grids : towards an evaluation methodology

Eales, Aran and Walley, Luke and Buckland, Hannah and Frame, Damien and Strachan, Scott (2018) Social impacts of mini-grids : towards an evaluation methodology. In: IEEE PES Power Africa Conference 2018, 2018-06-26 - 2018-06-29.

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The level of investment in mini-grids is limited by a lack of understanding of their social impacts. A paucity of published data exists on the issue, presenting a need for mature, better-integrated monitoring and evaluation methodologies. Such social impact focussed data would provide a critical evidence base for supporting claims of the beneficial effects of mini-grids on the communities they serve. This paper provides a literature review exploring the existing knowledgebase on the social impacts of mini-grids, what methodologies are used to evaluate them, and the extent to which social impact monitoring and evaluation is currently carried out. It finds that although there is a general acceptance of the benefits of rural electrification through mini-grids, it is not often based on empirically measured evidence of mini-grid impact on the general wellbeing or social development of the communities they serve. Existing studies tend to focus more on measuring technical and economic performance of installed systems. Recommendations for a best practice methodology for evaluating the social impact of mini-grids is presented, which will be applied and tested in a variety of development contexts to gain valuable data to inform the sector.