Main content area

Electrification in Remote Communities: Assessing the Value of Electricity Using a Community Action Research Approach in Kabakaburi, Guyana

Blair, Niebert, Pons, Dirk, Krumdieck, Susan
Sustainability 2019 v.11 no.9
community service, computer simulation, decision making, electricity, energy, engineers, problem solving, rural communities, rural electrification, social environment, systems engineering, Guyana
PROBLEM—Provision of electric services in remote communities operating a subsistence economy has been challenging both for policy-makers and engineers. The value of electricity services and the choice structures in remote economies are not well understood. NEED—There are several technical, economic, and environmental challenges to the top-down approach of electrification. There is a need for methods that can integrate multiple dimensions of social development that can fit the environmental, economic, and technical aspects of community development. APPROACH—To create a system that best fits with the rural community, a bottom-up approach is recommended; this depends on community participation to provide a coherent from-the-ground-up decision-making framework for rural residents, engineers, and policy-makers. OUTCOMES—We have developed a from-the-ground-up community participation approach to power system design, where the community activity system is studied before investigating energy development options and assessing the risks and benefits from the perspective of the people in the community. We present the approach called Community Access Resource for Electricity Sustainability (CARES), with its foundation in action research methodology to explore the values in the community, the valued electricity services (VES) that the community feel they need, and the way the community adopts the different value types through problem-solving. We conclude that the CARES approach provides rural residents, engineers, and policy-makers with a new bottom-up approach to rural electrification in remote economies. IMPLICATIONS—The implications of this design calls for designers to extend their workspace beyond the design office and to facilitate with remote communities in devising solutions that best fit their needs. ORIGINALITY—Original contributions are the identification of the different value types and VES from-the-ground-up, and the integration of these into a gamified, interactive, and virtual-reality setting for participants to play through and discuss major consequences from which prudent decisions for development can be made. Additionally, we have proposed a new cost index for the feasibility assessment of rural electrification projects.