The Energy for Development (e4D) research programme implements rural eleectrification projects as learning entities to support energy (electricity) access. Projects target improvement of living standards of the poor in communities in rural Africa providing pathways for growth and development. To date the e4D programme has installed installed 6 community managed solar photovoltaic (PV) mini grid systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, invigorating villages and poor off grid communities with more in the planning. Studies on community level power is augmented with research on solar home systems and how they can be optimised with efficient appliances. Research is undertaken in the following three main streams of work.

Mini Grid Projects
Research & Capacity Building
Fortis Unum

Mini Grid Projects

Deployed e4D mini grids supply electricity 24/7 to businesses, health centres, schools, places of worship & households. All project are cooperatives, managed by elected members of the local communities with the performances remotely monitored by the e4D team in the UK. 


The 13.5kWp Kitonyoni project in Makueni county was the first PV-battery mini grid installed in Kenya by e4D in 2012. This project was fully funded by the e4D programme.

 Two other PV-battery mini grids were installed later in the Maasai villages of Oloika (13.5kWp) and Shompole (8.4kWp) in the south of the country’s rift valley near lake Magadi. These two projects were jointly funded by the e4D programme and Rural Electrification Authority (REA) Kenya.


Two identical PV-battery mini grids systems were deployed in 2015 in Kyenjojo, western Uganda. 13.5kWp capacity systems were installed in each village of Kyamugarura and Kanyegaramire. These projects were jointly funded by the e4D programme and Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Uganda. 


6kWp installed by e4D in Bambouti, eastern Cameroon with Cameroon Catalyst, a student led organisation from the University of Southampton. The project serves the local health centre and provides a ‘solar power hub’ for the villagers.

Resilience of mini grid system

The delivery model is built around a number of key sustainability parameters;

  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Ongoing needs assessment
  • High quality installation
  • In country supply chain and technical support
  • Regular monitoring to support performance, operation maintentnance and project expansion
  • Cooperative business model, with micro financing for the community

Research and Capacity Building

In addition to mini grids reseaerch addresses key areas of energy access utilising laborty faciliites including luminous efficiency, battery and appliance performance testing & small PV module characterisation.

Optimised solar home systems (SHS)

Research and development to combine generation and demand side optimisation leading to a robust and economically viable low cost graduated pay as you go solar home system solution.

Off-grid DC appliances testing

Laboratory based DC appliances (refrigerator, television, LED light bulbs, cooling fan, batteries etc.) testing by replicating field conditions.

DC/AC mini grids

Efficient energy services solution through mini grids

  • Appropriate system design of AC mini grids to support electricity access.
  • Unlocking the promise of high efficiency & low maintenance DC mini grids for electricity access.
  • Spatial planning for mini grids.

Capacity Building 

Supporting capacity building in research & development in off-grid energy access and energy efficiency in the built environment.

  • Mini grids system design and performance analysis.
  • Energy efficiency in buildings.
  • Country-wide and regional geospatial analysis supporting energy studies at regional, city and village scales (GIS, EnergyPlus, HOMER etc.).

Fortis Unum (stronger as one)

Fortis Unum builds on the extensive experience of the e4D team in the areas of energy access, mini grids and networks. this includes in country field experience of research and development in delivering 6 modular PV driven power generation and distribution systems in rural Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) affecting ~ 20,000 people in Cameroon, Kenya and Uganda.

The Fortis Unum project brings in partners from Kenya and Uganda. Such a partnership with over 100 years expereicen, will harness their complementary skills and capabilities across network design, power generation and transmission, distributed generation, mini grids, policy development, field work and stakeholder engagement. This project will test off-grid networks, in terms of their ability to:

  • Work individually.
  • Work collaboratively with each other in a small network cluster.
  • Work in parallel with the national grid, individually, in clusters and transitioning these as a formal part of the national grid.

The research is structured to test and model the above systems and their configuration to enable African households to thrive through optimised, flexible and upgradeable mini grid networks.

Key understanding will cover

  • Exploration of options to cluster mini grids to form wider networks with greater stability and lower Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE).
  • Utilisation of high stability mini grids to support the near end of line utility network.
  • Understanding the intermittent islanding operation of mini grid networks.
  • Demand side management approaches related to consumption profiles and mini grid network stability.

Latest updates:

FORTIS UNUM (Stronger As One): Clustering Mini-Grid Networks to Widen Energy Access and Enhance Utility Network Resilience 2018

To date, it is estimated that around 1.2 billion people, representing 16% of the global population, have no access to electricity with many more having no reliable electricity supply. Most of these people live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and south Asian countries. Overall access to electricity in SSA is estimated to be ...

Capacity in Research and Development Embedded in Case Studies Related to Energy in the Built Environment and for Rural Electrification 2017

This Newton Fund Institutional Links Grant between the Sustainable Energy Research Group (SERG) of the University of Southampton, and the Center for Research in Energy Systems and Technologies (CREST) of the University of San Carlos covers two areas: energy efficiency in buildings, and energy access (rural electrification). This report covers the preparatory work being done ...

University of Southampton projects on Africa rural electrification represented at 3rd International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference 2016

The University of Southampton’s Sustainable Energy Research Group (SERG) showcased their work in Energy for Development (e4D) at 3rd International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC) which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, on the 30th September and 1st October. The exhibition included displays, videos and information on the 6 mini-grid projects installed by SERG in Africa. IOREC ...

University of Southampton's Mini Grid Projects in Africa form a Central Part at 2nd African Mini Grid Summit 2015

The 2nd African Mini Grid Summit was launched today in Nairobi Kenya, with the aim of sharing experiences in mini grids especially those related to low carbon renewable energy schemes in Africa. The Summit held over the period 18 – 20 November 2015, will be attended by representatives from various African governments, academia, the private sector ...

Energy for Development holds 'Development and Mini-Grids in Rural Africa' conference in Nairobi, Kenya 2015

‘Development and Mini-Grids in Rural Africa’ was the first Energy for Development’s (e4D) dissemination conference successfully held 11 – 12 May 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was well attended with over 110 registrants including academics, project developers, governmental officials, private sector contractors, students, project financiers as well as other stakeholders operating in the field ...

e4D – 'Development and Mini-Grids in Rural Africa' – Conference Report 2015

‘Development and Mini-Grid in Rural Africa’ was the Energy for Development’s (e4D) first dissemination conference successfully held 11 – 12 May 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was well attended with over 130 registrants including academics, project developers, governmental officials, private sector contractors, students, project financiers as well as other stakeholders operating in the field of ...

Development & Minigrids Rural Africa Conference 2015

11th and 12th May 2015 As part of the Energy for Development programme, a two-day conference on “Development and Minigrids” – Rural Africa will be held in Nairobi on 11th and 12th May 2015. The purpose of the conference is to bring together active partners in the field and to disseminate the e4D work on Energy for ...

Prof Bahaj gives Lecture on Energy for Development at the Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah Saudi Arabia 2013

On Wednesday 17th July 2013, Professor AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the Sustainable Energy Research Group, attended an joint event in Saudi Arabia on; Community of Practice on Poverty Reduction Community of Practice on Infrastructure ISDF Knowledge Initiative for Poverty Reduction Professor Bahaj gave a lecture at the event on ‘A New Approach to Energy for Development‘, speaking about the ...

Two New Villages set for Electrification 2013

The villages of Bambouti in Cameroon and Oloika in Kenya’s rift valley are set for electrification through PV array’s by the E4D team and partners. Baseline data has been collected and the villages will undergo installation in the coming months. Oloika, Kenya On a recent trip to Kenya, the E4D team, along with members of Kenya’s Rural ...

Lecture 30th May 2013: A New Approach to Energy for Development 2013

Thursday 30 May 2013 Room 1027/Building 67 Highfield Campus Doors open 17.30 Lecture begins 18.00 – no admittance after 18.00 Refreshments will be served in the foyer from 17.30 onwards Speaker: Prof. AbuBakr Bahaj, BSc, PhD, FICE, FRSA Head of Energy & Climate Change Division Faculty of Engineering and the Environment University of Southampton To date it is estimated ...

Energy for Development Network 2013

Reliable and affordable sources of energy are fundamental not only for wellbeing, but also for economic growth and poverty reduction. Fulfilling the energy needs of developing countries without compromising the environment is a challenge, requiring imaginative policies and methods. Many rural communities do not have access to the national electricity network or the associated benefits ...

Energy for Development project installs 13.5 KW solar plant in Kenya 2012

The Energy for Development project has successfully completed the installation of the 13.5 KW solar plant in the rural Kenyan village Kitonyoni. The project addresses the electricity needs of rural communities in East Africa and addresses the fundamental scientific, engineering, social and policy research issues in rural power generation and distribution, transferring knowledge between participating countries ...