ERG Research Shows Reliability of Independent Solar Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nature Energy recently published research by ERG PhD Student Jonathan Lee and Professor Duncan Callaway quantifying the cost of reliability for decentralized solar and battery systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their research finds that falling costs of solar photovoltaics and lithium-ion batteries is enabling decentralized solar plus storage systems to be increasingly cost-competitive with traditional electricity grids in Sub-Saharan Africa at reliability that matches or exceeds traditional grids. They also find a scaling pattern that above 90% reliability, decentralized systems can be designed to have higher reliabilities by increasing the levelized cost of energy by $0.11 / kWh per additional “9” of reliability (i.e. going to 99%, 99.9%, and higher) on average.

Geographic Variation in Levelized Cost of Electricity for Representative Decentralized Solar System

Lee and Callaway have made their model available online with an interactive interface as a research and decision-support tool at

Read the full Nature Energy article here, additional coverage by the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources here, Berkeley News here, and a blog by the authors describing the evolution of the research here.