Quantifying Agricultural Productive Use of Energy Load in Sub-Saharan Africa and its Impact on Microgrid Configurations and Costs

Amanda Farthing, Evan Rosenlieb, Darlene Steward, Tim Reber, Clement Njobvu, Chrispin Moyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus Citations


The use of advanced energy technologies for agricultural purposes—such as irrigation, refrigeration, crop processing, and egg incubation—has the potential to increase crop yield, reduce vulnerability to changing precipitation patterns, increase shelf life, strengthen income and employment opportunities in rural areas, and reduce emissions by displacing fossil fuel-based technologies. These productive uses of energy (PUE) in remote areas could potentially be powered by microgrids that additionally serve otherwise unelectrified communities, most of which are located in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. In this paper, we use high-resolution geospatial data to estimate the end-use electricity demand for a range of agricultural PUE across Sub-Saharan Africa, and we share these data in an open-access mapping tool. Next, we use REopt®, a techno-economic optimization model of energy systems, to determine the cost and system sizing implications of incorporating agricultural PUE into microgrid designs in Kenya and Zambia. We estimate the upper bound of agricultural PUE demand for irrigation, milling, shelling, refrigeration, and egg incubation across Sub-Saharan to be 16.8 TWh/yr. We find that incorporating local agricultural PUE into microgrid system designs increases the required system sizing while having minimal impact on the levelized cost of energy of these systems. Our analysis is the first to demonstrate the PUE potential in the agricultural sector at a 10x10-kilometer resolution across Sub-Saharan Africa and to show, at scale, how site-specific PUE can impact the cost and sizing of microgrids that are otherwise deployed to serve local household and community load.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number121131
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-7A40-84725


  • Agriculture
  • Electrification
  • Energy decision making
  • Microgrids
  • Productive use of energy (PUE)


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