Kerosene, candles, and disposable batteries are commonplace in the developing world for rural domestic lighting. These technologies come with negative health and environmental effects that are well documented and often form the basis for engineering design. The immediate and near-term concerns that families experience on a daily basis are also important — economics, quality of light, and quality of service. Families in off-grid rural villages often spend more than half of their energy-related expenditures on domestic lighting. Many technologies have been implemented to provide low-cost and renewable power for lighting, yet these efforts have had a mixed record of success due to persistent financial barriers, issues of consumer acceptance and adoption, and a variety of technical complications. The incidence of these problems can be reduced by completing a techno-economic comparison of alternatives during conceptual design. This paper compares three major categories of off-grid domestic lighting projects: (1) centralized electrification with a micro-grid, (2) battery charging stations, and (3) solar lanterns. The HOMER Energy software is used to compare these options using data gathered from rural villages in Africa. To offer a comparison to existing options available, this paper provides a full financial comparison to a base case — kerosene lanterns — to suggest financing strategies and business models for the options investigated.

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