Feasibility study for a solar PV microgrid in Malawi

Eales, Aran and Archer, Lloyd and Buckland, Hannah and Frame, Damien and Galloway, Stuart (2018) Feasibility study for a solar PV microgrid in Malawi. In: 2018 53rd International Universities Power Engineering Conference (UPEC). IEEE, Piscataway, NJ. ISBN 9781538629109

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    Abstract

    Energy is an enabler for development but electricity access is still unobtainable for over 1 million people in developing countries. In Malawi, less than 12% of the population have access to grid electricity and in rural areas this is as low as 1%. Solar microgrids are emerging as a cost competitive, low carbon and reliable method for offering energy access in developing countries. This paper provides a summary of the process and key findings in assessing technical and financial feasibility of a solar microgrid in Malawi, including system design definition, business model discussion and sensitivity analysis of key parameters through techno-economic modelling. The novel approach developed utilises qualitative and quantitative information gathering and assessment in an iterative way to design a robust energy access solution in the most viable local location. The results show that the upper limit of the ‘expected energy use’ can be up to 5 times higher than the designed energy limit. Higher demand grids are shown to present c.20% lower levelised cost of energy for the cases considered and conversely, the ‘low demand’ grid case is shown to have c.48% higher levelised cost of energy . This represents a significant range of uncertainly in energy use prediction, which if not treated properly will adversely affect both energy access and microgrid business development. The research presented in this paper will address these challenges in the context of Malawi but is broadly applicable to other similar locations.