With the lowest access to electricity in the world, the country of Liberia, West Africa, has efforts underway for electrification through a fossil based centralized scheme around its capital city and possible connections to the larger Western Africa Power Pool network. These plans leave a large part of the rural population with no access to electricity.
This work analyzes the potential of decentralized generation to provide electricity to the rural Liberian population. The suppressed demand of the rural population is calculated at 235 GWh/yr. There is sufficient renewable energy potential to supply this demand. The capital costs and electricity prices of decentralized generation with different fuels are calculated and compared to the ability and willingness to pay of rural Liberians.
Small diesel units have the lowest capital cost but photovoltaic, small hydropower and small biomass projects provide lower electricity prices. Biomass and small hydro electricity are affordable for Liberians at $0.08/kWh and $0.11/kWh respectively. Diesel and photovoltaic, with levelized cost of electricity of $0.62/kWh and $0.33/kWh respectively, exceed Liberians' willingness to pay.
Centralized and decentralized electricity developments are not mutually exclusive; both may be used within a comprehensive electrification plan. Decentralized generation with emphasis on rural areas can complement the existing plans to achieve the Government of Liberia's goal of universal access to electricity, providing social equity and economic progress. In order to become a reality, rural decentralized electrification will need policy support and focused funding.