Integrating Renewables in a Micro-Grid in Congo

Client Organization: 
Kivu Green Energy
Project Location : 
Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo
Secondary Client Organization: 
Sustainability Without Borders
Summary of Project Idea: 

Goals & ObjectivesThis masters project represents the first step in establishing a long term relationship between Kivu Green Energy and SWB at SNRE.  The two organizations have identified the following goals for their relationship:

1. Increase the use of renewable energy in the company’s portfolio
2. Improve customers satisfaction with service through

(a)  Decreased cost per kwh of delivered electricity
(b)  Increased reliability and time of power supply

3. Train a cohort of local technicians that can supply the company’s needs and embark in entrepreneurial businesses related to clean energy
4. Deliver educational program that increases awareness of productive uses of electricity and entrepreneurship
5. Design and implement an assistance program for low income customers
6. Document improvements in community and individual well being due to decreases in energy poverty

The project will develop a technical, social and business assessment of Kivu Energy operations including the following:

1. Technical Assessment

(a) Baseline measurements of service including cost per kwh, load curve, profitability, load factor, maintenance practices, technical losses
(b) Present demand and forecasted demand
(c) Renewable potential available
(d) Modeling of optimal fuel mix, cost per kwh, and load curve

2. Social Assessment

(a) Basic demographics of customer base
(b) Baseline of willingness and ability to pay according to demographic categories
(c) Measurement of customers’ value of reliability VS. price
(d) Measurement of customers’ value of environmental benefits of renewables

3. Business Assessment

(a) Forecast of economic performance changes for the company
(b) Estimates for increased economic flows in the community
(c) Estimates for increased job opportunities in the community
(d) Outline of possible symbiotic relationships between the company and other businesses in the area

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance:

This project provides a unique opportunity to improve the operations of a social venture.  Kivu Energy has been operating with diesel and is increasing their capacity with solar power.  However, the company desires to have a systems approach to their growth and ensure that they are considering the technical and social components necessary for their future.  The project will answer the technical questions around operating a mini-grid in the developing world context and will fill the gap in literature in creating a framework for best practices for transitions from fossil fuels to renewable micro-grids.  The project will provide direct impact to the company’s bottom line, but also to the energy poverty situation in the region.   This project is innovative because most mini-grids in developing countries focus on solar power to provide lighting only and do not engage in an assessment of this scope.  The present project will allow the company to include other technologies in their mix and at the same time focus on electricity for productive uses beyond lighting.  

Minimum output:

Survey of Kivu’s customer base and potential customer base – including demographics, willingness and ability to pay, relative value of customers for reliability, environmental protection, quantity, and affordability. 

Technical assessment – including a survey of all available renewable technologies and their direct and indirect benefits (i.e. job creation, economic flows, increase in productive activities)

Business assessment – in particular present technical and economic performance data and expected future growth. 

Integrative ApproachProject would require interdisciplinary approach involving techno-economic, business, and social analysis.  It will use survey techniques and engineering tools to develop the analysis required. 

SEAS Program Areas: 
Environmental Policy and Planning
Environmental Informatics
Sustainable Systems
Professional Career Development Benefits: 
  • An understanding of technical, institutional, and economic aspects of a mini-grid power systems and transformations to renewables
  • Understanding of the operations of social ventures in least developed countries
  • Opportunities to make contacts and network NGOs and renewable energy companies working in the space
  • Development of business knowledge transferable to other NGO’s and/or social ventures
Funding Sources: 

The project will have an initial funding of $5,000.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 
  • Technical Assessment: valuable to the company for optimizing operations and preparing for a renewable energy transition
  • Social Assessment: valuable to the company for developing pricing plans, outreach efforts and growth plans
  • Businesses Assessment: valuable to determine possible growth and indirect impacts the company can create.
Additional Faculty Advisor(s) and Department(s): 
Dr. Todd Levin (Argonne National Laboratory)
Contact full name: 
Jonathan Shaw
Job title: 
Director – Kivu Energy
State or Country: 
Democratic Republic of Congo
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Jose Alfaro
Contact Phone: 
Contact e-mail: 
Contact information: 
Staff member of a potential client organization
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Tyler Fitch
  • Elissa Mueller
  • Calli VanderWilde
Project Status: 
Past Project