Decentralized electricity solutions: innovation in essential services is no substitute for policy

Sylvy Jaglin
Researcher at LATTS and professor at Université Gustave Eiffel

Emmanuelle Guillou
PhD student at LATTS

The African electricity sector has undergone profound change in recent years. Off -grid solar solutions are now very much part of the new-look industry. But lack of coordination between authorities and, crucially, the uncertainty that persists surrounding the long-term future of off -grid installations in the face of the stated desire to extend national power grids, combine to slow the uptake of off-grid solutions. This situation favors certain intermediaries in the market, such as startups and small-scale resellers of solar-powered items.

Whereas some rely on quality of customer service and advanced technologies (modular battery solar home systems, or SHS, and interconnections between individual solar kits), others exist to meet demand for low-cost solar-powered items. Questions arise concerning how public policies and market mechanisms interact. Current regulations lack a holistic vision and joined-up thinking, meaning it is not yet realistic to think in terms of hybridization.