Affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy service is fundamental to human, social and economic development. Approximately 1.2 billion people lack access to basic energy services. There exists a huge energy access gap between urban centers and rural areas. Approximately 84% of the people deprived of energy access live in rural areas. Existing rural electrification options including grid extension, mini-grids, and stand-alone solar home systems, have limited penetration in rural regions. Entrepreneurs, with support from governments and international institutions, have experimented with different business mechanisms to facilitate energy delivery. A significant amount of investment is being made for rural electrification but many projects are not self-sustaining.

This research develops a new approach, ‘Wireless Community Grid’, to provide basic energy services to rural households and evaluates if the approach meets the desired features of affordability, profitability, and scalability. The approach comprises of a central charging station operated by local vendors, where portable power systems are charged and rented to homeowners. Each portable power system provides power to each home in the form of indoor lighting and device charging. Each power system is swapped from the station at a regular interval.

To understand the energy needs and expenses of a rural population, surveys were conducted in Borgne, Haiti. The major sources for lighting are kerosene lamps, rechargeable bulbs and candles. For charging lights and phones, people have to walk to a vendor with solar systems or generators. Based on three surveyed communities, each household typically spends $2.50 a week on energy services and local vendors make $0.70 a week from each household served.

To explore the sustainability of the Wireless Community Grid approach, three preliminary evaluation models were developed. First, a techno-economic tool was used to evaluate the relationship between reliability and cost. Based on the developed tool, a system consisting of 350 W solar array and 58 portable power units with 283 Wh capacity would meet the basic energy needs of a community of 49 households at the lowest present value. Second, a life cycle assessment was performed to study the environmental impacts. It was observed that the proposed system would provide a yearly reduction of 382 kg of CO2 equivalents and 197 kg of crude oil equivalents for each household served compared to the current energy state. Finally, a social business structure was proposed to maximize the number of people impacted while keeping the system affordable and self-sustainable. While keeping the household energy cost level at $2.50/week for energy services, the capital investment of $6100 for a community system, could be recovered in less than 2 years. Over 10 years, the returns on a single investment would be able to expand to 64 similar communities and provide energy services to around 19,000 people. The wireless community grid approach appears to be affordable for end-users and provides profits for local vendors while being financially and environmentally sustainable and highly scalable.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Electric power systems--Haiti; Distributed generation of electric power--Haiti; Renewable energy sources--Haiti

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Sustainable Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Industrial and Systems Engineering (KGCOE)


Robert Stevens

Advisor/Committee Member

Brian Thorn

Advisor/Committee Member

Marcos Esterman


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes