Open data and energy access in Tanzania

Based on work in Tanzania with the government, several private developers and other stakeholders, two colleagues and I put together a report on the benefits of open data in off-grid access. I also used it as an excuse to play with seaborn.

Please have a look at the full article here. What follows is a (very) brief summary and two of the plots I made with seaborn.

The bottom line

Through new technologies and business models, off-grid power markets promise to bring electricity access to more rural communities at a faster pace than is possible with grid extension alone. Apart from regulatory support and access to international finance, this incipient market sector depends critically on accurate and timely data. New approaches to data are gaining momentum in developing countries and have the potential to transform the rural electrification agenda.

Why are we talking about off-grid electricity?

More than a billion people lack access to electricity, and many of them live far from the grid.

Where does off-grid technology fit in?

When villages or towns are very far from existing infrastructure, or are very small, it can be much more cost-effective to use mini-grid or stand-alone systems to provide electricity.

What are the obstacles to market analysis in this field?

A lack of technical data, along with outdated institutional systems, can hinder progress. These new technologies and approaches are creating possibilities that did not exist before, but they are capital intensive and have a long payback time in a sector where capital is still relatively limited. Careful market analysis is therefore required to target communities that are in need, can pay,have potential for growth, and are unlikely to be connected to the grid before the off-grid project can pay off. The information required for this analysis is often hard to come by or non-existent in developing countries, which prevents both the private and public sectors from being able to plan strategically.

Five key lessons and recommendations emerge from efforts to date