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Results Briefs November 10, 2020

Integrated Electrification Planning Accelerating Progress Towards SDG7: Focus on Low Access Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa


Elelctricity acccess in rural Uganda. Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program’s (ESMAP’s) Sustainable Energy for All Technical Assistance (SE4ALL TA) program has already supported the preparation of least-cost electrification plans in nine Sub-Saharan African countries (Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Eritrea, while least-cost electrification plans are expected to be completed in another eight countries (Namibia, Liberia, Angola, Somalia, Benin, Zimbabwe, Mauritania and Chad) by June 2022. Furthermore, existing national electrification plans and national electrification strategies have been improved with support from the Program in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar and Malawi.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7.1, which calls for universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030, required a step change in the rate of new connections and in levels of investment, particularly in low access countries. While a few countries, e.g., Myanmar, Guinea, presented credible paths to universal access through national electrification plans and investment prospectuses (based on geospatial analysis) that integrate grid improvement, mini grids and off-grid technologies, in 2017 most countries had not yet taken advantage of advances in electricity access planning tools and techniques, such as satellite-based geospatial data and least-cost algorithms.

Sector-wide programs in the electricity sector showed better results than what could be achieved using a project-by-project approach. The World Bank Group’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) also validated this approach and recommended that a greater use of such an approach would provide the scale and speed necessary to achieve universal access by 2030 in low access countries.

Such sector-wide programs were based on national electricity access roll out plans built on geospatial least-cost analysis, which in turn anchored sector investment financing prospectuses, and the coordinated deployment of both grid and off-grid electrification solutions.

In 2017, ESMAP launched the Sustainable Energy for All Technical Assistance (SE4All TA) program to help countries to develop electrification and investment plans, use geospatial tools for least-cost planning, and syndicate financing for scaling up grid-based, mini grid and off-grid solutions. SE4All TA has developed a center of expertise on geospatial least-cost planning, which enables governments to design their electrification programs and targets at least cost based on a sound technical analysis of costing while promoting transparency in allocation of Government resources. Geospatial plans are a key input for the preparation of Investment Prospectuses for the achievement of the Government’ targets and the syndication of financing. The Program developed a web-based electrification planning tool that is freely available and provides high-level least cost electrification plans for multiple scenarios to reach universal access. This resource offers high level scenario analysis based on publicly available data, but also allows customization by analysts with access to other data from governments and other stakeholders, and is complemented by training activities to build geographic information system (GIS) electrification planning capacity in client countries and stakeholder engagement to harmonize data standards. In addition, just-in-time support is provided to countries that need assistance with the customization of the tool for their local country contexts. The support is complemented by grants to country teams for the preparation of GIS-based least cost electrification plans, national electrification strategies and other integrated electrification planning documents.

ESMAP’s geospatial planning support ranges across all regions and multiple investment and technical assistance projects, for example:

  • In Malawi, the ESMAP-funded geospatial least-cost electrification plan guided preparation of the National Electrification Strategy in 2018-2019 to support the design and adoption of a National Electrification Program to guide optimal electricity access roll-out for the country. This activity, which was undertaken in close cooperation with two donors active in the electrification space in Malawi – the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact for Malawi and UNDP – identified grid and off-grid investments, and the right regulatory, institutional, and financing framework that needs to be adopted to support mini and off-grid systems rollout, which were then reflected in the design of the Malawi Electricity Access Project.
  • In Cote d’Ivoire ESMAP supported the government in 2018-2019 by developing an investment prospectus for a medium-term national electricity access scale up program and mobilizing additional financing through the organization of a donor roundtable in Abidjan. The investment prospectus was prepared and presented to donors, and about USD 60 million was mobilized to increase access in 15 selected administrative capitals. This constitutes complementary financing to the ongoing Bank operation: Electricity and Transmission Project.
  • In Kenya in 2017, the program helped develop a geospatial electrification plan to underpin the National Electrification Strategy. This plan has attracted government financial support for mini grids and off-grid electrification in areas not prioritized for a grid connection. It also laid the groundwork for a US$150 million World Bank project in Kenya (Off-grid Solar Access Project for Underserved Counties), aiming to bring electricity through off-grid solar solutions to marginalized communities beyond the grid.

In November 2019 ESMAP launched the Geospatial Electrification Platform (GEP): the first open source, open data tool that can carry out high level geospatial electrification planning based on various policy scenarios. Greater availability of data, analytics and tools – including machine learning – now provide new opportunities to further enhance electrification planning through 1) better estimates of demand, and 2) more intelligent integration of available technologies and business models to reach all user segments in the most efficient and inclusive manner. A customized application of the electrification model was completed for Yemen in June 2020, yielding useful insight into electrification planning options in an Fragility, Conflict, and Violence (FCV) context where there is significant damage to energy infrastructure, and reliable, on the ground, data may be difficult to obtain.

Work has also commenced this year (2020) on a number of African countries, where the GEP is being used to carry out high level analysis that would normally need to be commissioned country by country, but here can instead be carried out with better data available from the country teams or by modifying the model as needed, for example:

  • In Eritrea the GEP electrification data was used as a proxy for the estimation of electrified/un-electrified Health care facilities; in Sudan, the World Bank country team was provided insights on the distribution of unelectrified populations across the country, and their relative distance to current infrastructure (medium voltage lines and mini grids).
  • In the Horn of Africa, GEP is used to provide insights on un-electrified populations across the region, with a specific focus on bilateral border regions, and the electrification status of health care facilities and schools, along with using the GEP electrification data as a proxy for the estimation of electrification status of refugee camps and internally displaced populations. 

Bank Group Contribution
The ESMAP trust fund support from July 2017 to June 2020 for SE4All TA accounted for $8.3 million.

The GEP was developed by a consortium led by ESMAP and the World Bank. Other members of the consortium include the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) of Sweden, Development Seed, Google and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, but the cost of platform development and hosting was borne only by the ESMAP.

The capacity building activities, namely the Summer School on Modelling for Sustainable Development and the Energy Modelling Platform for Africa, were jointly organized by ESMAP/World Bank with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), UK Department for International Development (DFID), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), KTH and the Open Tools, Integrated Modelling and Upskilling for Sustainable Development (OpTIMUS) Community.

Moving Forward
The GEP developed under this Program, the just-in-time support to country teams and the capacity building activities will continue under a new Integrated Electrification Strategies and Planning program under ESMAP’s new Business Plan (July 2020-June 2024). This new program will continue to disseminate the GEP, both to the wider public and to World Bank project teams and client counterparts in order to mainstream GIS-based electrification planning in high access deficit countries. Based on feedback received from GEP users and from energy planning practitioners, revisions and updates to the platform will be made, increasing the functionality and ease of use of the tool in a version 2.0 that is expected to be released no later than June 2022.

As awareness of the platform and its capabilities has increased, there has been growing demand for just-in-time support to help country teams customize and adapt the platform and its underlying model, and the new program has established a roster of technical experts to provide such support as needed.

The capacity building activities have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated mobility restrictions. Due to the fact that the GIS trainings involve weeks-long, intensive training curricula with practical components and hands-on instruction, they cannot easily be replicated in a webinar format. The team is therefore exploring options to develop a distance learning product that best meets these requirements, preferably building on existing open learning infrastructure, which will expand the reach of the trainings even when travel restrictions have been lifted and in-person trainings can be held again.

The GEP is an open portal for electrification investment data, analysis and research. It is being designed upon the principles of openness and transparency and to support collaboration and interoperability between institutions, modelers and practitioners engaged in the field of energy access. The main beneficiaries are:

  • High level decision makers will use output from the online GEP Explorer tool that produces geo-infographic investment options for all target countries.
  • Policy and investment analysts will use the GEP Scenario Generator to develop tailored scenarios to meet specific policy or investment goals.
  • Data producers and ICT developers will use the GEP Toolbox and have a target into which additional information and methods can be utilized (with global impact).
  • International development organizations will have a platform for country outreach. The software provides a springboard for tailored analysis and engagement from academia to project developers.

The target participant groups for the capacity building activities are energy planners, utility representatives as well as information and communication technology (ICT) specialists with a background in GIS.