Sustainability of renewable off-grid technology for rural electrification: A comparative study using the IAD framework

Heksi Lestari (Corresponding Author), Maarten Arentsen, Hans Bressers, Budhi Gunawan, Johan Iskandar, Parikesit

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This paper analyses the implementation of renewable off-grid technologies in rural areas, especially where an extension to the national electricity grid was not considered economically feasible. Implementation of remote, stand-alone, electricity technologies as alternatives to a grid connection to provide sustainable electricity access have often failed with many planned projects not realised or abandoned. Our initial assumption was that stand-alone electricity project exhibiting higher scores on sustainability indicators would benefit communities more and make their endurance more likely. However, the impact of the stand-alone technology was often overruled or its quality weakened by government preferences wishing to realise a connection to the central electricity grid. Empirically, the study compares three cases of stand-alone micro-hydropower projects and three cases of stand-alone solar photovoltaic projects in Bogor Regency, Indonesia. It is based on qualitative document analysis, complemented by multiple rounds of semi-structured interviews and observations. The paper assesses the extent to which each project met indicators of technical, economic, social, environmental, and institutional sustainability. The paper tries to explain the endurance of the project from these sustainability scores and uses additional explanations from Ostrom's Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework. The findings show that, for the studied local communities, the attractiveness of a grid connection overrules the virtues of a stand-alone electricity project, despite its quality, successful operation and impact. Our research also shows that government policy priorities changed in the rural electrification programme for some communities. In these situations, the off-grid rural electrification programme predominantly provided only temporary access to sustainable electricity for remote local communities that remained waiting and hoping for a grid connection to connect them to fossil fuel-dominated electricity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4512
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018


  • Endurance
  • Off-grid
  • Rules in use
  • Rural electrification
  • Sustainability

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