A Participatory Approach to Rural Energy Systems: Design, Planning and Implementation

  • Maizakiah Ayu Abdullah

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Universal energy access remains a challenge despite it being essential in enabling human development and reducing poverty. Rural electrification plays a key role in driving sustainable socio-economic development through improved lighting, education, and healthcare services, as well as the creation of small to medium enterprises. However, existing approaches to rural electrification are oftentimes fragmented and focused on the provision of electricity without giving due attention to the specific and unique requirements of rural end users. Integrating the rural electrification system's social, technical and financial aspects, particularly to emphasize human development goals, calls for a more holistic design process. A renewable energy, micro-grid system is an attractive and viable option given the ability to use available natural resources and leverage local capacities through a community-based delivery model. Local participation becomes an integral component to community-based rural electrification design and necessitates the inclusion of participatory approaches. This thesis addresses improving rural electrification design and incorporating participation in three steps. Firstly, a comprehensive discussion and analysis of a case study micro-hydro project and its implementation by an organization based in Malaysian Borneo is presented. This case study provides understanding and insight into rural users' design needs. Secondly, a representation of a rural electrification system's objectives and high-level requirements is created through an expanded approach of an objectives analysis. This analysis is used to incorporate various perspectives and needs in the initial stages of design and enables the formulation of a design process that reorients human development as the ultimate objective of a rural energy system. Finally, a participatory process to rural electrification design is developed through the creation of a simulation game that facilitates experiential learning of electricity use, financial considerations and the technical limitations of a micro-grid system. The simulation game is aimed at enabling rural users to make more informed collective decisions towards the design of a rural electrification system that emphasizes human development as the fundamental objective.
Date of AwardJun 2013
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorScott Kennedy (Supervisor)


  • Rural Energy; Participatory Approach; Rural Electrification Design.

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