RePower Initiative Brings Microgrids to Off-Grid Communities in Africa

Feb. 29, 2024
The European Union funded program aims to bring renewable electricity to 20,000 off-grid customers in Madagascar, Niger, Senegal and Ghana by 2027.

A new four-year initiative will use plug-and-play microgrids to bring renewable electricity to 20,000 off-grid consumers in Africa by 2027.

RePower, formally known as “Improving Renewables Penetration Through Plug and Play Microgrids,” aims to enhance the penetration of renewable energy in rural communities in Madagascar, Niger, Senegal and Ghana.

Nearly 800 million people, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to electricity. RePower’s goal is to address this challenge by providing affordable, reliable and sustainable energy – as well as social and economic opportunities for those living in remote, rural areas with no access to the grid.

“RePower will empower African off-grid communities to power their own development through the productive use of energy, moving beyond traditional electrification to drive true economic growth,” said Moses Mengu, senior project leader at the Danish Technological Institute, one of the organizations participating in the project.

The $13.8 million (EUR 12.7 million) project is partially funded by the European Union, which will provide $10.7 million (EUR 9.9 million).

Containerized microgrids improve resiliency, lower electricity costs

The containerized plug-and-play microgrids RePower is delivering include solar panels, a battery energy storage system, agri-waste fed biomass combined heat and power units and an energy management system.

In addition to improving reliability and resilience for the communities, electricity from the microgrids is expected to cost between $0.33 and $0.44 per kWh. This is nearly a third of the price currently paid by these communities for electricity from fossil fuel-powered generators.

The lower rate is due, in part, to how quickly these modular installations can be installed.

“Our work in Madagascar, Niger, Senegal, and Ghana provides a blueprint to scale up successful use cases, developing a process for the industrialization of microgrids. This will cater not only to immediate energy needs but also anticipate future community development,” said Corneliu Barbu, project coordinator for RePower and associate professor at Aarhus University.

In addition to providing access to reliable electricity, RePower plans to establish hubs to train renewable energy technicians. The plan is to start with 50 trainees, enrolling more participants as the project expands.

Expanding energy access

Off-grid microgrids, also called minigrids or remote microgrids, are increasingly delivering reliable electricity to African communities without access to a central grid.

Typically a faster, cheaper and more reliable way of powering remote villages, renewable energy microgrids typically displace diesel- or gas-powered generators which are both more expensive to operate and more polluting. Plus, on-site renewable power such as solar eliminates the logistics of transporting diesel or gas to the remote sites. 

There has been significant investment in remote microgrid systems in Mauritania, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia in recent years.

About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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