What is a Mini-Grid?

What is a Mini-Grid? Simple as A, B, C!

There is a current buzz about mini-grids. What does ‘Mini-Grid’ even mean? Why is there a buzz around it?  Let’s start from somewhere, shall we?

In the world right now, about 3 billion people are living in energy poverty. Out of this number, almost 900 million of them do not have access to electricity. Not having access to electricity means they do not have power supply to light up a bulb, fan or even charge phones. Will any of these people ever get to enjoy electricity supply without using petrol/diesel generators?

Over half of the country’s current population is currently unserved or underserved.  With Nigeria’s population estimated to reach 400+ million by 2050, there is a need to look at alternatives to achieving reliable power supply – Mini-Grids.

In this article, we will consider mini-grids for off-grid communities. 

What is an Off-grid Community?

Did you know that in some communities there is no presence of distribution companies? That is, no distribution company, no electrical poles, no wires hanging on poles on the streets and so on. Communities like these are said to be off-the-grid. 

Mini-Grids help these communities that are off-the-grid have access to electricity. 

So, What is a Mini-Grid?

So, let us assume there is a central water pumping station in your housing estate. Once, water is pumped, water flows to several houses through already laid pipes. The amount of water consumed by each house is recorded using meters to facilitate water bill payments. That is the same way mini-grids operate. 

Electricity is generated at a central mini-power station (not as large as the national power generating stations) within an off-grid community. This electricity is delivered to several houses through low voltage distribution lines (cables). Each house is metered using smart power meters so the customers are able to pay a fee for electricity used. This fee is called a tariff.

Therefore, a mini-grid is an integrated system that consists of generating and distributing electricity to a localised set of people. According to USAID, mini-grids are systems involving small-scale electricity generation (from 10kW to 10MW), and the distribution of electricity to a limited number of customers via a distribution grid that can operate in isolation from national electricity transmission networks and supply relatively concentrated settlements with electricity at grid quality level.

 

What is a mini-grid? This is a picture of a mini-grid built by Havenhill in Kwaku communityMore pictures at Kigbe and Kwaku mini-grids.

In conclusion, mini-grids can help people who have never had access to electricity enjoy 24/7 power supply. It is the fastest way to get electricity to the unserved and underserved people in Nigeria.

 

After reading this, do you now understand the meaning of mini-grids? We would love to hear your feedback either through a comment or email. If you understood this article, you should read – What are the components of a mini-grid?


You may also read

Why Mini-Grids?
At what point should deploying mini-grids be your option?


*Underserved: This refers to people who are currently connected to the electricity grid but are not enjoying constant power supply.
*Unserved: This refers to those who are not connected to the national electricity grid at all.

 



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