Renewable energy systems in rural areas can be considered as socio-technical systems, where a variety of dimensions (technical, economical, social, environmental, cultural, institutional) contribute to the sustainability of the system. With this view, it is clear that when a new project is designed, a methodology is needed in order to effectively address these dimensions, i.e. a Delivery Model (DM).
Although important work has already been done on the subject of delivery models for sustainable renewable energy projects in rural areas, it still remains a concept under definition and specific guidelines are not available. Under these circumstances, the purpose of this work was to investigate, systematize and analyze different delivery models used by Wind Empowerment (WE) organizations when implementing electrification projects with locally manufactured small wind turbines.
The first step of this study was to identify variables contained in the concept of delivery models and appropriate to characterize small wind turbine projects for rural electrification. The identified DM variables (General description of project & General approach, Enabling environment, Ownership & Management, Training, Operation & Maintenance, Financing, Local socio-economic impacts, Dissemination & Scaling Up) were the framework to develop a set of questions that were then used as interview guidelines to conduct personal interviews with WE member organizations.
In total, interviews with 13 interviewees were conducted, about their experience in 19 projects of electrification with small wind turbines, in 11 countries. Three of these projects were not implemented by WE organizations, but were public policy projects. The reason they were included in the user survey was to investigate similarities and differences between the small scale WE projects and large scale public projects and to examine how these experiences can contribute to each other.
The collected experiences were then dismantled into the DM variables and thus translated into delivery models. Moreover, the way each experience addressed the different variables was assessed so that best practices and lessons learnt were collected.
Eventually, the delivery models of the collected experiences were presented in the form of a guide, which can be used when designing projects with locally manufactured small wind turbines. To identify which delivery model is more appropriate, the initial conditions and the objective of a new project can be compared with those of the available projects in the guide.
It was decided that the initial conditions that should be defined refer to: (a) whether the implementing organization is located in the same country where the wind turbine(s) will be installed, (b) whether the location is remote and/or off-grid and (c) to what extent the beneficiaries have the technical and financial capacity to support the project. Therefore, similarities in the initial conditions of projects might allow the employment of the same delivery model with similar results.
In addition, the outcomes of the survey were summarized and conclusions were made about how each DM variable can be addressed. Some remarkable success factors to be highlighted for each variable are the following:
- “General approach”: Making an initial community diagnosis, choosing an appropriate location which satisfies specific criteria, making a good sizing of the system, finding local partnerships (for projects in foreign countries), having a multidisciplinary team of people with various backgrounds, encouraging people to be active and self-sufficient during all phases of the project.
- “Enabling environment”: Choosing an appropriate technology for which components and materials can be found locally, engaging a local engineer or technician to help when shopping the materials (for projects in foreign countries).
- “Ownership & Management”: Establishing a proper way of community ownership which respects the traditional organizational structure that is already familiar to the community, establishing a formalised management model with specific roles and responsibilities.
- “Training”: Choosing participants who either have an engineering background or technical experience (with the view that they will support the project afterwards), running the training course at a University which is close to the installation site, selecting as participants people who will continue living in (or close to) the community, selecting at least 2-3 more competent people and making sure that they are able to take care of the system, conducting multiple trainings if necessary, making sure that the community can be at least able to take the turbine down and perform an initial diagnosis of the problem, encouraging and enabling people who participate in the workshops to become teachers themselves.
- “Operation & Maintenance”: Finding a local entity close to the community to monitor the system and support the maintenance process (for projects in foreign countries), getting feedback from failures through a logbook or an online database, establishing a proper payment system to if the operating costs are not externally financed, encouraging people to be active in maintenance and do maintenance together.
- “Financing”: Providing the training course for free to the people who are going be responsible for the maintenance but charging external participants normally, fundraising so that people who design and implement the project can be paid for their work, learning how to write a good proposal to apply for funds.
- “Local socio-economic impacts”: Choosing to electrify a place that is visited and used by many people to increase the potential impact of the project, identifying potential productive uses of energy in the area (with the help of local networks and institutions).
- “Dissemination & Scaling Up”: Conducting a market assessment before attempting to scale up a project in a country, ensuring funds are available so that people’s work can be paid (as voluntary job can’t support a large number of projects).
Finally, the three public policy cases were examined and they were compared with each other using the variables of General approach, Training, and Maintenance. It was understood that similar methodologies apply also for larger-scale public policy projects and some lessons learned from these experiences can also contribute to the sustainability of small-scale projects and vice-versa.