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(Some) Sustainability Impacts of Unreliable Electricity Access in Sub- Saharan Africa

18 Jun 2018 - 12:15

Upcoming seminar at ERC: 02 July 2018 ]
Presenter: Paulina Jaramillo
Venue: ERC seminar room, 6th floor, Menzies Bldg, UCT

Of the 1.2 billion people living without electricity access worldwide, over half of them reside in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Many of those that do have access in SSA are subject to frequent outages due to insufficient generation capacities and/or poor transmissions and distribution infrastructure. Electricity outages result in increased use of back-up diesel generators. Here we estimate the changes in net emission of CO2 and conventional air pollutant emissions (PM2.5, CO, SOx, and NOx), consumer costs, and fossil energy consumption that result from the use of back-up diesel generators in SSA. We show that reliance on back-up diesel generators can lead to considerable increases in emissions in some countries. Moreover, the use of back-up diesel generators increases fossil energy consumption in all countries studied. Finally, consumers in these countries could see costs of generating back-up power that are collectively millions of dollars higher than the costs of grid electricity. These results suggest that the environmental benefits of more reliable electricity for customers already connected to the grid are comparable to those of adding new, low-carbon, generation.

Professor Paulina Jaramillo, is Arthur Hamerschlag Career Development Professor of Engineering and Public Policy and Associate Professor, Engineering & Public Policy and CMU Africa at Carnegie Mellon University, where she is also Co-Director of the Green Design Institute. As a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, she is currently involved in multi-disciplinary research projects to better understand the social, economic, and environmental implications energy access and development. Her interest in these matters stems from her firm belief that what happens in developing countries as they try to provide universal energy access will have profound implications in global environmental systems. There is an opportunity, however, to build innovative modern energy systems that benefit from decades of technological development and experience elsewhere. Through her research, Dr. Jaramillo aims to create the knowledge that will be required to meet global energy needs.