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Advancing the state of geospatial electrification modelling: New data, methods, applications, insight and electrification investment outlooks

Time: Mon 2020-06-15 10.00

Location:, http://Vid fysisk närvaro eller Du som saknar dator/ datorvana kan kontakta (English), (English)

Subject area: Energy Technology

Doctoral student: Alexandros Korkovelos , Energisystemanalys

Opponent: Ed Brown, Department of Geography, Loughborough University, United Kingdom

Supervisor: Professor Viktoria Martin, Kemiteknik, Kraft- och värmeteknologi, Tillämpad termodynamik och kylteknik; Professor Mark I. Howells, Energisystemanalys; Francesco Fuso Nerini, Energisystemanalys; Hans-Holger Rogner, Energisystemanalys

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Globally, it is estimated that there are approximately 860 million people without access to electricity. Achieving universal electricity access over the next decade – as part of Sustainable Development Goal 7 – indicates that many countries will soon need to set in place roadmaps, action plans and policy for ramping-up electrification. The challenge is significant. It requires the motivation of considerable financial resources so that electricity can reach poor, rural populations in least developed areas. 

A look back at history however, reveals that such a ramp-up of electrification activity is not unprecedented. Many countries in the “Global North” have faced similar challenges about a century ago. Past examples indicate that electrification planning – and ensuing policy – can take different shapes based on underlying social, technological, economic and political conditions. This brings forward the importance of considering inputs that reflect these conditions. It also highlights the need for reliable data and information that best describe the local context (e.g. resource availability, distribution of population, economic activities or infrastructure). While advancements in geo-spatial information technology have greatly improved the availability of such information in the past years, their use in electrification planning is not fully exploited. 

This dissertation aims to advance the state of geospatial electrification modelling by demonstrating new data, methods, applications and insights over the course of four academic papers covering three research questions. 

The first question searches for common – across different times and geographies – patterns, policy dilemmas and constraints related to electrification, the reading of which can shed light on current and future electrification planning activities. In response, paper I takes a retrospective look into the electrification challenge in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden and China and examines strategies, success stories and failures in each case. Results unveil key lessons regarding the development phases of electrification - with a focus on the role of isolated, small mini-grids. 

The second question asks whether the use of geospatial information technology can introduce new data and methods into an existing modelling framework (e.g. OnSSET) and help tackle electrification planning dilemmas. In response, paper II leverages new open access datasets to provide spatially explicit estimates of small-scale hydropower potential in Sub-Saharan Africa. Paper III demonstrates twenty-six new, updated or missing datasets, the processing of which allows new angles of analysis over electrification planning.

The third research question focuses on how the OnSSET modelling framework can be improved, open sourced and scaled so as to allow a broader audience develop fast, informative, country and context specific electrification investment strategies. Here, papers III and IV, leverage OnSSET’s modular structure, calibrate its functions and develop customized electrification investment outlooks for Malawi and Afghanistan respectively. These, explore different scenarios tuned according to the policy challenges in each country (e.g. gradual electrification in Malawi or planning under conflict risk in Afghanistan). Moreover, this dissertation has expanded OnSSET’s application range as part of the Global Electrification Platform (GEP). The GEP is an open access, collaborative environment that now hosts 216 electrification investment scenarios (together with underlying input data and models) for 59 countries worldwide, thus improving the transparency surrounding their review, reproduction or replication by a broader audience.​