All together now: institutional innovation for pro-poor electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa

Gollwitzer, Lorenz (2017) All together now: institutional innovation for pro-poor electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Access to electricity is an important precondition to many aspects of human and
economic development. Yet, in rural sub-Saharan Africa in particular, access rates
remain very low — at an average of 17% and much lower in some cases. Rural
electrification in Kenya, the focus of this thesis, had only reached 7% in 2014. Given
the goal of universal electrification by 2030, formulated as part of Sustainable
Development Goal 7, scalable and replicable approaches that are able to support
productive and non-productive uses are required.
Mini-grids are one promising solution to this problem, alongside grid extension and
off-grid approaches such as solar home systems. However, their long-term operational
sustainability has historically been a challenge. While the academic literature to date on
sustainable energy access has largely been two-dimensional in its analysis of mini-grids
(focusing on technology and economics or financing), this thesis contributes to an
emerging body of recent contributions to the literature, which have begun to foreground
socio-cultural considerations.
Bridging the literature on collective action for common-pool resource (CPR)
management and property rights theory, a refined theoretical framework is produced for
the purpose of analysing the institutional conditions for sustainable management of rural
mini-grids. The utility of this framework and of treating electricity in a mini-grid as a
CPR is demonstrated via empirical analysis of three case studies of mini-grids in rural
Kenya and evidence from 24 expert interviews. This yields insights on nontechnological
approaches to addressing operational challenges relating to sustainable
mini-grid management, e.g. fair allocation of limited amounts of electricity to different
consumers in ways that are acceptable to the entire community. This thesis develops
contributions to the literature on sustainable CPR management and collective action,
property rights theory and energy access in developing countries. From these theoretical
and empirical insights, it explores a novel institutional structure for sustainable
management of pro-poor mini-grids in the form of a community–private property hybrid
management platform, thereby opening up opportunities for future research into the
implementation of such a platform. The thesis represents the first comprehensive
attempt to analyse the institutional aspects of pro-poor mini-grid management as well as
the first comprehensive attempt to treat electricity in a mini-grid as a CPR.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT History of Africa
H Social Sciences > HC Economic history and conditions > HC0079 Special topics, A-Z > HC0079.E5 Environmental policy and economic development. Sustainable development Including environmental economics
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD9000 Special industries and trades > HD9502 Energy industries. Energy policy. Fuel trade
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering > TK1001 Production of electric energy or power. Powerplants. Central stations
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2017 13:14
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2017 13:14

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