Smart off-grid infrastructure for the Global South?: A case study of Solar2Go in India

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Numerous power infrastructures in the global south suffer from frequent and long-term blackouts [1]. Off-grid infrastructures are one potential solution especially for remote areas without easy access to national grids. The IEA estimates that most people globally without access to electricity could be most economically served with off-grid systems [2]. However, studies on how well these smaller systems are effectively able to service the end-users are strikingly rare [3]. Even the World Bank, for example, does not specify "reliability" or "quality" requirements for the smallest household electricity needs— these are specified only for larger infrastructures [4].
This presentation considers two smart solar off-grid mini-grid infrastructures, which were installed in semi-urban Chakalwansi and Icchauli villages, in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh in India. The initial objective of this north-south pilot project Solar2Go [5] was to test the viability of smart meters for mini-grids with a prepaid functionality. By utilizing smart meter data, we analysed the number of blackouts and brownouts experienced by the semi-urban and rural consumers. Further, we utilized interview data to gain an understanding of user satisfaction levels. Finally, we critically assessed the viability of the type of energy service, in the energy users energy mixes, taking social, cultural, practical and economic factors into account.
In our analysis, we found that the smart off-grid infrastructure was a good energy service option for the local communities, and the technology was relatively well able to meet the service quality promises, compared with many other electricity infrastructure services available locally or in India. However, unexpected outages occurred due to practical, weather-related or maintenance scheduling issues. Customers were generally satisfied; however, confidence was fickle and some customers returned to using fossil-fuel based energy sources. Our contribution fills the research gap on quality requirements for energy access for the hundreds of millions of energy-poor people, and on how, in practice, off-grid smart meter solar infrastructures are meeting or are not yet meeting the energy needs of semi-urban and rural communities in the global south.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Dec 2021
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventDevelopment Days: Infrastructures, technologies, and vulnerabilities in global development - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 17 Feb 202218 Feb 2022


ConferenceDevelopment Days
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