Quality Assurance Framework for Mini-Grids

Edward Baring-Gould, Mohit Singh, Rose Mutiso, Caroline McGregor, Kari Burman, Sean Esterly

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Providing clean and affordable energy services to the more than 1 billion people globally who lack access to electricity is a critical driver for poverty reduction, economic development, improved health, and social outcomes. More than 84% of populations without electricity are located in rural areas where traditional grid extension may not be cost-effective; therefore, distributed energy solutions such as mini-grids are critical. To address some of the root challenges of providing safe, quality, and financially viable mini-grid power systems to remote customers, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) teamed with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop a Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) for isolated mini-grids. The QAF for mini-grids aims to address some root challenges of providing safe, quality, and affordable power to remote customers via financially viable mini-grids through two key components: (1) Levels of service: Defines a standard set of tiers of end-user service and links them to technical parameters of power quality, power availability, and power reliability. These levels of service span the entire energy ladder, from basic energy service to high-quality, high-reliability, and high-availability service (often considered 'grid parity'); (2) Accountability and performance reporting framework: Provides a clear process of validating power delivery by providing trusted information to customers, funders, and/or regulators. The performance reporting protocol can also serve as a robust monitoring and evaluation tool for mini-grid operators and funding organizations. The QAF will provide a flexible alternative to rigid top-down standards for mini-grids in energy access contexts, outlining tiers of end-user service and linking them to relevant technical parameters. In addition, data generated through implementation of the QAF will provide the foundation for comparisons across projects, assessment of impacts, and greater confidence that will drive investment and scale-up in this sector. The QAF implementation process also defines a set of implementation guidelines that help the deployment of mini-grids on a regional or national scale, helping to insure successful rapid deployment of these relatively new remote energy options. Note that the QAF is technology agnostic, addressing both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) mini-grids, and is also applicable to renewable, fossil-fuel, and hybrid systems.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages58
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-67374


  • developing country mini-grid
  • mini-grids
  • minigrid
  • off-grid
  • quality assurance framework


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