This project is being carried out in collaboration with local offgrid energy company MOSCET, the National University of Lesotho, and technical lead Gram Oorja, an experienced community minigrid and rural technology company based in India. This project is funded by InnovateUK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.
At a national electrification rate of 41%, Lesotho lags behind its Southern African peers in both electrifications by grid extension and off grid solutions. This is especially true in the rural villages where 60% of the population lives yet less than 10% are electrified. This is despite the fact that there is need for modern energy services that could accelerate development and create business opportunities.
Grid extension is too expensive for rural electrification because of difficult mountainous terrain, and the sparse nature of the population. Mini-grids are a possible solution to this challenge. They have been widely adopted in Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.
Unlike its African neighbours, Lesotho has no minigrids installed. This project aims to introduce minigrid technology into Lesotho, and demonstrate that they can be a superior sustainable solution for rural energy access. Adapting the successful minigrid model that project partner GramOorja has applied in over 60 remote rural communities in India will allow the creation of an innovative technology and business model for Lesotho. The model combines a minigrid with a set of tailored productivity-enhancing technologies and services (eg water pumping, grain milling, entrepreneurship). Adapting this to Lesotho’s requirements will see the project engaging with local communities to design and test tailored technology and business models that deliver energy access whilst increasing rural productivity and economic growth in those communities. Two alternative versions of the innovative model will be tested by installing and monitoring the performance of two 37kWp minigrids — one for compact rural communities, one for more widely dispersed ones.
The outputs will be a rigorous assessment of needs and priorities from minigrid technology in Lesotho, a set of two complementary technology models adapted to Lesotho’s needs and conditions, a set of business models similarly adapted to Lesotho national needs and behaviour, a validation of that technology and business model as a commercially sustainable and high impact solution for rural electrification, and a innovative finance model for scaling up the minigrid models for widespread adoption in Lesotho.