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Publications

Can Time-of-Use Tariffs Increase the Financial Viability of Mini-Grids?

Declining solar and battery costs and increased operational efficiency have helped expand community-scale mini-grids, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where they now meet the power needs of over 47 million people. However, mini-grid system economics must continue to improve to be a reliable power solution for the nearly 800 million people still lacking access. Time-of-use (ToU) tariffs could represent one piece of the solution. This policy brief develops a model to estimate the effects of a ToU tariff using data from Energicity, a solar mini-grid operator in Sierra Leone.

Climate Finance for Just Transitions

This paper investigates challenges in the international climate finance landscape through three issue areas: (1) aligning national climate strategies and international finance, (2) finding avenues for positive climate finance outcomes in an era of growing rivalry between Chinese and Group of Seven—particularly US—public financiers, and (3) reforming major climate finance practices and institutions to more effectively cater to the needs of LMIC stakeholders.

Improving Rural Livelihoods, Energy Access, and Resilience Where It’s Needed Most: The Case for Solar Mini-Grid Irrigation in Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s levels of agricultural productivity and energy access are among the lowest in the world. Now Ethiopia is moving forward with the new Distributed Renewable Energy-Agriculture Modalities (DREAM) project to test distributed solar mini-grids as a solution for improving irrigation, increasing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes, expanding rural electricity access, and enhancing gender and social inclusion. This policy brief summarizes the approach, along with findings of an economic viability analysis examining how the solar mini-grid irrigation projects are likely to impact farmers' incomes at nine unique sites in rural Ethiopia.

Catalyzing Climate Finance for Low-Carbon Agriculture Enterprises

Despite minimal contributions to causing climate change, rural households working in the agriculture sector are disproportionately impacted by climate-related shocks and see it as one of the biggest risks to their livelihoods.

COVID-19 and Distributed Renewables: How the Crisis Has Affected the Sector and What It Means for People, the Planet, and the Future of Energy Access

Over the course of 2021, the James E. Rogers Energy Access Project at Duke University (EAP) convened three dialogues with a range of distributed renewable energy stakeholders representing research, business, investor, nonprofit, and policymaker perspectives. One of these sessions was a public event at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland—co-organized by Bboxx and EAP. The purpose of these conversations was to discuss the major impacts, lessons and narratives emerging within the sector in the wake of a period of great upheaval.

Lessons for Modernizing Energy Access Finance, Part 2 – Balancing Competition and Subsidy: Assessing Mini-Grid Incentive Programs in Sub-Saharan Africa

This policy brief summarizes a review of 20 mini-grid incentive programs in sub-Saharan Africa, 17 of which are still being implemented. The programs analyzed primarily used one of two mechanisms to stimulate investment: auction programs and results-based financing (RBF) programs.

Business Model Innovations for Utility and Mini-Grid Integration: Insights from the Utilities 2.0 Initiative in Uganda

The historical context from which many African utilities have emerged has left a challenging legacy regarding the provision of energy service delivery to all. As rural electrification receives growing attention, a wave of decentralised renewable energy (DRE) technologies and business models are changing the energy service delivery landscape.

This Energy Insight focuses specifically on the opportunities for distribution utilities and mini-grid developers to collaborate.

Lessons for Modernizing Energy Access Finance, Part 1: What the Electrification Experiences of Seven Countries Tell Us about the Future of Connection Costs, Subsidies, and Integrated Planning

This brief explores the successful rural electrification experiences of seven case countries—Brazil, Chile, Laos, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, and Tunisia—looking specifically at the cost of connections and how subsidies and public financing were deployed to address the affordability challenge and facilitate energy access.

The Energy Access Dividend in Honduras and Haiti

Governments face important decisions regarding how to balance power quality, quantity, and reliability priorities with how to ensure all populations receive access as quickly as possible. Identifying the pathway that best fits the needs of the country requires a detailed understanding of the benefits that accrue to different populations under different scenarios and timelines. The Energy Access Dividend in Honduras and Haiti develops a methodology to quantify and monetize benefits generated through accelerated electricity access.

Profits and Productivity: Stimulating Electricity Demand in Low-Income Settings

As electricity companies in low- and middle-income countries move deeper into rural regions, the cost of new connections generally increases while the electricity demanded by these new customers remains lower than urban and peri-urban customers. This is a challenging dynamic for utilities looking to sustain their financial health as well as for governments tasked with engineering viable strategies for achieving universal electrification.