The impact of development priorities on power system expansion planning in sub-Saharan Africa

Amelia Musselman, Valerie M. Thomas, Dima Nazzal, Dimitri J. Papageorgiou, Aranya Venkatesh, Dharik S. Mallapragada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sub-Saharan Africa faces unique barriers to electricity development due to the large proportion of the population that is un-electrified and the prevalence of rural populations. Typically, power system expansion planning models assume all potential consumers can be immediately electrified. This assumption is unrealistic in sub-Saharan Africa, where electrification will likely be a gradual process over a number of years. Furthermore, since a large proportion of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is located in rural regions, the prioritization of these regions may impact how the grid develops. In this research, we develop a multi-period optimization model for power generation and transmission system expansion planning in sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast to existing models, which assume full electrification, we consider a variety of electrification policies and analyze the impact of varying the electrification rate and policy on the cost and resources selected for power system expansion. We test our model on a case study of Rwanda. We find that varying the year in which full electrification is reached has a larger impact on cost and generation capacity than varying the electrification policy does, although, when urban and rural regions are considered equitably, more rooftop solar is built. Varying the electrification policies has a larger impact on transmission expansion than on generation expansion and this impact is amplified when starting from zero initial system capacity rather than the original Rwanda system. Additionally, a sensitivity analysis shows that tightening the bounds on CO2eq emissions has a large impact on the generation portfolio and cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-492
Number of pages32
JournalEnergy Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Africa
  • Electricity development
  • Electrification
  • Power system expansion planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • General Energy


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