Rural electrification

Rural electrification

Ask a question about 'Rural electrification'
Start a new discussion about 'Rural electrification'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Rural electrification is the process of bringing electrical power
Electric power
Electric power is the rate at which electric energy is transferred by an electric circuit. The SI unit of power is the watt.-Circuits:Electric power, like mechanical power, is represented by the letter P in electrical equations...

 to rural
Rural areas or the country or countryside are areas that are not urbanized, though when large areas are described, country towns and smaller cities will be included. They have a low population density, and typically much of the land is devoted to agriculture...

 and remote areas. Electricity is used not only for lighting and household purposes, but it also allows for mechanization of many farming operations, such as threshing, milking, and hoisting grain for storage; in areas facing labor shortages, this allows for greater productivity at reduced cost. One famous program was the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

's Rural Electrification Administration
Rural Utilities Service
is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture , one of the federal executive departments of the United States government charged with providing public utilities to rural areas in the United States via public-private partnerships...

 in the United States, which pioneered many of the themes still practiced in other countries. According to IEA (2009) worldwide 1.456 billion people do not have access to electricity, of which 83% live in rural areas. In Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

 only 12% of the rural population has access to electricity. Worldwide rural electrification progresses only slowly. The IEA estimates that—if current trends do not change—the number of people without electricity will fall to 1.2 billion by the year 2030. Due to high population growth the number of people without electricity is expected to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa.


In impoverished and undeveloped areas, small amounts of electricity can free large amounts of human time and labor. In the poorest areas, people carry water and fuel by hand, their food storage may be limited, and their activity is limited to daylight hours.

Adding electric-powered wells for clean water can prevent many water-borne diseases, e.g. dysentery, by reducing or eliminating direct contact between people (hands) and the water supply. Refrigerators increase the time that food can be stored, potentially reducing hunger, while evening lighting can lengthen a community's daylight hours.


Depending on the source, rural electrification (and electricity in general) can bring problems as well as solutions. New power plants may be built, or existing plant's generation capacity increased to meet the demands of the new rural
Rural areas or the country or countryside are areas that are not urbanized, though when large areas are described, country towns and smaller cities will be included. They have a low population density, and typically much of the land is devoted to agriculture...

 electrical users. A government may be inclined to use the cheapest generation source, which may be highly pollutive, and locate the power plant next to vulnerable minorities or rural areas. However, renewable energy is ever more imposing itself as not only clean but also cost effective technology for remote rural areas.


One of the least expensive, most reliable, and best proven mains electricity distribution
Electricity distribution
File:Electricity grid simple- North America.svg|thumb|380px|right|Simplified diagram of AC electricity distribution from generation stations to consumers...

 systems for rural electrification is single wire earth return
Single wire earth return
Single wire earth return or single wire ground return is a single-wire transmission line for supplying single-phase electrical power from an electrical grid to remote areas at low cost...

. This system is widely used in countries such as Australia with very low populations densities. Also, there are some geographical requirements necessary for its use. There are many instance where these two systems are used together in the same system to serve remote and less remote rural populations.

Since modern power distribution networks can cheaply include optic fibres in the centre of one of the wires, telephone
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

 and internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 service may become available with rural electrification.

Locally generated renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 is an alternative technology, particularly compared to electrification with diesel generators. In some countries (particularly Bangladesh and India) hundreds of thousands of Solar Home Systems have been installed in the last years. The deployment of these systems is coupled with microfinance schemes, such as Grameen Shakti. Most of these systems provide electricity for lighting and some small appliances (radio, TV). Mini-grids (central generation and village wide distribution network) can be a more potent alternative to energy home systems since they can provide capacity for the productive use of electricity (small businesses). Hybrid mini-grids (renewables combined with diesel generators) are a widely acknowledged technology for rural electrification in developing countries.


In 1981, 74.9% of Brazilian households were served by electric power, according to the IBGE
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics or IBGE , is the agency responsible for statistical, geographic, cartographic, geodetic and environmental information in Brazil...

's PNAD survey. In 2000, the Brazilian Federal Government, under the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration, launched the Luz no Campo program to expand the distribution of electricity in Brazilian domiciles, with a focus on rural households; from 2003 on, the program was reinforced and renamed Luz para Todos by the Lula administration. The results are as follows, according to the PNAD: by 1996, 79.9% of all households had access to an electric power supply; that proportion rose to 90.8% in 2002 and 98.9% in 2009.


Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 launched the China Township Electrification Program
China Township Electrification Program
The China Township Electrification Program was a scheme to provide renewable electricity to 1.3 million people in 1,000 townships in the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Xinjiang, Qinghai and Tibet.The program, one of the world's largest renewable...

 in 2001 to provide renewable electricity
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 to 1,000 townships, one of the largest such programs in the world. This is being followed by the China Village Electrification Program
China Village Electrification Program
The China Village Electrification Program is a scheme to provide renewable electricity to 3.5 million households in 10,000 villages by 2010. This is to be followed by full rural electrification using renewable energy by 2015....

, also using renewable energy, aimed at electrification of a further 3.5 million households in 10,000 villages by 2010, to be followed by full rural electrification by 2015.


400 million Indians have no access to electricity.

The problem is not one of distribution, but of provision. Many people attempt to steal electric power. The electric company then responds with punitive "tampering tariffs" that require payment for all the electricity that the fraudulent connections and meters might have stolen. These very high tariffs are unaffordable, resisted by all but the wealthiest users. The result is that the underfunded electric power company reduces service to the amount of electricity it can afford to produce. The electric companies therefore also prefer to serve large institutional customers that pay their bills.

Developments on cheap solar
Solar power in India
India is densely populated and has high solar insolation, an ideal combination for using solar power in India. India is already a leader in wind power generation...

 technology is considered as a potential alternative that allows an electricity infrastructure consisting of a network of local-grid clusters with distributed electricity generation. That could allow bypassing, or at least relieving the need of installing expensive, and lossy, long-distance centralised power delivery systems and yet bring cheap electricity to the masses.

India's government has proposed legislation to compel village leaders to operate local generators run from biomass
Biomass, as a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel....

 (see links). Locally-controlled generation is preferable to distant generation because the fuel, billing and controls for the generator will then be controlled by the villagers themselves, and they are thought more likely to come to an equitable arrangement among themselves.

However, there is doubt that villagers can run such an installation.

European Union

In Europe exists the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), an international non-profit organization founded in 2006. ARE promotes the use of renewable energy in developing countries. ARE is partner of the United Nations Global Compact and the European Union Sustainable Energy Campaign.


During the 1930s most towns in Ireland were connected to the grid but the outbreak of World War II in Europe lead to shortages of fuel and materials which brought the process to a virtual halt until the early 1950s when the Rural Electrification scheme gradually brought electric power to the countryside a process that was completed on the mainland in 1973 (but it wasn't until 2003 that the last of the inhabited offshore islands were fully connected). Currently the Rural Electrification scheme continues but is primarily concerned with upgrading the quality of the network (voltage fluctuations are still a problem in parts of Ireland -particularly in rural areas) and making three phase supplies available to larger farms and rural businesses requiring it.

United States

In 1892, Guy Beardslee, the original owner of Beardslee Castle
Beardslee Castle
Beardslee Castle is a castle in Little Falls, New York, USA, constructed in 1860 as a replica of an Irish castle, and currently used as a restaurant.-External links:**

, was paid $40,000 to provide hydroelectric power to East Creek in New York.

Despite widespread electricity in cities, by the 1920s electricity was not delivered by power companies to rural areas because of the general belief that the infrastructure costs would not be recouped. In sparsely-populated farmland, there were far fewer houses per mile of installed electric lines. A Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 state committee was organized to carry out a study of the costs and benefits of rural electrification. The University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. It is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system and has the fourth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 52,557...

 Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, working jointly with Northern States Power Company
Northern States Power Company
Northern States Power Company was a publicly-traded S&P 500 electric and natural gas utility holding company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota that is now a subsidiary of Xcel Energy .-History:...

 (NSP, now Xcel Energy
Xcel Energy
Xcel Energy, Inc. is a public utility company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, serving customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. Primary services are electricity and natural gas...

), conducted an experiment, providing electricity to nine farms in the Red Wing
Red Wing, Minnesota
Red Wing is a city in Goodhue County, Minnesota, United States, on the Mississippi River. The population was 16,459 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Goodhue County....

 area. Electricity was first delivered on December 24, 1923. The "Red Wing Project" was successful- the power company and the University concluded that rural electrification was economically feasible. The results of the report were influential in the National government's decision to support rural electrification.

Before 1936, a small but growing number of farms installed small wind-electric plant
Wind turbine
A wind turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical energy. If the mechanical energy is used to produce electricity, the device may be called a wind generator or wind charger. If the mechanical energy is used to drive machinery, such as for grinding grain or...

s. These generally used a 40V DC
Direct current
Direct current is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through...

 generator to charge batteries in the barn or the basement of the farmhouse. This was enough to provide lighting, washing machines and some limited well-pumping or refrigeration. Wind-electric plants were used mostly on the great plains, which have usable winds on most days.

Of the 6.3 million farms in the United States in January 1925, only 205,000 were receiving centralized electric services. The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was created by executive order as an independent federal bureau in 1935, authorized by the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 in the 1936 Rural Electrification Act
Rural Electrification Act
The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve rural areas of the United States....

, and later in 1939, reorganized as a division of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. It was charged with administering loan programs for electrification and telephone service in rural areas. Between 1935 and 1939 – or the first 4 ½ years after REA's establishment, the number of farms using electric services more than doubled.

The REA undertook to provide farms with inexpensive electric lighting and power. To implement those goals the administration made long-term, self-liquidating loans to state and local governments, to farmers' cooperatives, and to nonprofit organizations; no loans were made directly to consumers. In 1949 the REA was authorized to make loans for telephone improvements; in 1988, REA was permitted to give interest-free loans for job creation and rural electric systems. By the early 1970s about 98% of all farms in the United States had electric service, a demonstration of REA's success. The administration was abolished in 1994 and its functions assumed by the Rural Utilities Service
Rural Utilities Service
is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture , one of the federal executive departments of the United States government charged with providing public utilities to rural areas in the United States via public-private partnerships...

. Also, the Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee Valley Authority
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federally owned corporation in the United States created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected...

 is an agency involved in rural electrification.


The Rural Electrification Programme (REP) was incorporated in 1975 with the specific mandate to expand the reach of electricity supply to rural areas, where the provision of such services would not be economically viable for commercial providers of electricity. The REP extends the national grid through the construction of electrical distribution pole lines to un-electrified areas and provides house wiring assistance through a loan programme to householders.


In 2005, a musical about the rural electrification of Ireland, The Wiremen, written by composer Shay Healy
Shay Healy
Shay Healy is an Irish songwriter, broadcaster and journalist. He is best known for his role as host of Nighthawks, a RTÉ Television chat show of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and for composing "What's Another Year", Ireland's winning entry in the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest.-Early life:Shay...

, directed by Matt Ryan with musical direction by Julian Kelly, and produced by John McColgan/Moya Doherty
Moya Doherty
Moya Doherty is a Dublin-raised Irish entrepreneur and the producer and co-founder of Riverdance, the worldwide acclaimed theatrical phenomenon, which premiered in Dublin’s Point Theatre in February 1995...

 of Riverdance
Riverdance is a theatrical show consisting of traditional Irish stepdancing, notable for its rapid leg movements while body and arms are kept largely stationary. It originated as an interval performance during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, a moment that is still considered a significant...

fame, ran for six weeks at The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. Set in the fictional village of Kilnacree in North Mayo, the story had the drama of a young local farmer resisting progress, set against the comedy and upheaval occasioned by the arrival of The Wiremen, in this case seven Dubliners, known as The Lightning Jacks.


The movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a 2000 comedy film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and starring George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, and Charles Durning. Set in 1937 rural Mississippi during the Great Depression, the film's story is a modern satire loosely...

contains a reference to rural electrification in the end, when the main character Everett (George Clooney
George Clooney
George Timothy Clooney is an American actor, film director, producer, and screenwriter. For his work as an actor, he has received two Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Award...

) talks about how life will change with the introduction of a hydroelectric dam.

The 1937 movie Slim
Slim (film)
Slim is a 1937 movie starring Henry Fonda. The movie is sometimes called Slim the Lineman.It is a film adaptation of the 1934 novel Slim, written by William Wister Haines, which concerns linemen in the electric power industry...

(based on the novel by William Wister Haines
William Wister Haines
William Wister Haines was an American author, screenwriter, and playwright. His most notable work, Command Decision, was published as a novel, play, and screenplay following World War II.-Personal history:...

) starring Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda
Henry Jaynes Fonda was an American film and stage actor.Fonda made his mark early as a Broadway actor. He also appeared in 1938 in plays performed in White Plains, New York, with Joan Tompkins...

 salutes the linemen who wired the remote parts of the United States for electric power during the 1930s and realistically details many of the dangers they faced climbing towers and working on energized high-voltage equipment. The movie is shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies is a movie-oriented cable television channel, owned by the Turner Broadcasting System subsidiary of Time Warner, featuring commercial-free classic movies, mostly from the Turner Entertainment and MGM, United Artists, RKO and Warner Bros. film libraries...

 and is said to have been one of Henry Fonda's favorite roles. The beginning of the film contains a montage tribute to the men who pioneered the electric power industry and contains scenes from REA documentaries describing the electrification of America.

See also

  • :Category:Energy by country
  • Distributed generation
    Distributed generation
    Distributed generation, also called on-site generation, dispersed generation, embedded generation, decentralized generation, decentralized energy or distributed energy, generates electricity from many small energy sources....

  • Microgeneration
    Microgeneration is the small-scale generation of heat and power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs, as alternatives or supplements to traditional centralized grid-connected power...

  • Indoor air pollution in developing nations
    Indoor air pollution in developing nations
    Indoor air pollution in developing nations is a significant form of indoor air pollution that is little known to those in the developed world....

  • Power line communications
  • Renewable energy in Africa
    Renewable energy in Africa
    The developing nations of Africa are popular locations for the application of renewable energy technology. Currently, many nations already have small-scale solar, wind, and geothermal devices in operation providing energy to urban and rural populations...

  • Stand-alone power system
    Stand-alone power system
    A stand-alone power system , also known as remote area power supply , is an off-the-grid electricity system for locations that are not fitted with an electricity distribution system...

  • Universal Service Fund
    Universal Service Fund
    The Universal Service Fund was created by the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1997 to meet Congressional universal service goals as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996...

External links