Project Overview

The inaccessibility of modern energy to meet basic needs of cooking, lighting, and for manufacturing, education, healthcare and income generation industry demands of populations in low income countries (LIC) continues to be a problem in the 21st century. While governments of industrialised countries appear to be focused with concerns on global oil and natural gas prices, energy security, and climate change energy impacts, this crisis (energy inaccessibility) affecting millions of people in LIC have unfortunately been largely ignored. The lack of access to modern energy (including electricity) has led to an inability to implement developmental structures and initiatives, which has in turn condemned millions of men, women and children to continue to live in absolute economic poverty. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2018), almost 1 billion people have no electricity globally, with the majority in Africa. This means no electrical lighting in homes, limited access to radio and modern communications, inadequate utilisation of modern and digital education systems, poor health facilities and services (i.e. with limited refrigeration capacity for vaccines and inability to carry out medical procedures), and insufficient power to support businesses. While considerable progress and successes have been realised in the last two decades with electrification projects, the world still remains off-track in its efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030. 

The African continent appears to be where most work is still required, with over 600 million people without access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) i.e. over 57% of the regional population, and with 15 countries in that region having access rates below 25% (IEA, 2018). The improvement of energy and electricity access in African countries has been seen to be further compounded by the recent health crisis and economic downturn caused by Covid-19, with shifting government priorities, supply-chain disruptions and social distancing measures slowing down initiatives and access programmes (IEA, 2020). This has led to a slowdown and even a reverse in the recent progress achieved in the region owing to the direct impacts of the pandemic, with the IEA indicating that regional populations without electricity access could increase in 2020 for the first time since 2013 (IEA, 2020).

The installation and operation of community based micro-grid renewable energy systems (RES) i.e. 1kW-1MW scales, has been reported to be critical for the achievement of universal electricity access. This is especially significant in sparsely populated rural regions where the high cost of centralised power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructures had been the major barrier to electricity expansion (Alstone et al, 2015). The use of such decentralised RES have been acknowledged by the IEA to be the least expensive route to power provision and improving access to more than half of the currently deprived populations by 2030. Even with such optimistic projections, the installation of decentralised RES, especially in SSA countries have not experienced significant uptake owing to a number of factors, resulting in the possible non-achievement of the SDG 7 targets by 2030.

The installation and operation of community based micro-grid renewable energy systems (RES) i.e. 1kW-1MW scales, has been reported to be critical for the achievement of universal electricity access. This is especially significant in sparsely populated rural regions where the high cost of centralised power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructures had been the major barrier to electricity expansion (Alstone et al, 2015). The use of such decentralised RES have been acknowledged by the IEA to be the least expensive route to power provision and improving access to more than half of the currently deprived populations by 2030. Even with such optimistic projections, the installation of decentralised RES, especially in SSA countries have not experienced significant uptake owing to a number of factors, resulting in the possible non-achievement of the SDG 7 targets by 2030.

Project Breakdown

The CEANGAL project will specifically address the problems identified above, which hinders improved energy access and sustainable implementation of RES in low-income SSA regions by:

  1. Creating an operational and viable framework, structures and tools for a coordinated approach to develop local, community- based and stakeholder driven sustainable energy co-operatives and RES ownership and operation schemes, which can be applied and replicated for use in a wide range of SSA regions. This will be validated through extensive engagement and selected demonstration cases covering considerations for different energy, geographic and candidate uses.

  2. Jointly develop practical, easy to use digital, audio-visual and paper tools, and short training courses that will support a clear understanding of the life cycle of decentralised RES systems, from calculating and forecasting energy demand, to system selection and purchase, installation, operation and maintenance, to end of life disposal. The tools offered by the CEANGAL project will also include financial and cost benefit analysis (to make informed choices on most economically suitable RES choices).

  3. The development of ambitious and innovative collaborative knowledge exchange, expertise transfer and competence development network between Irish research organisations (RO) and local SSA LIC research and developmental institutions to grow and strengthen the local capacities in order to meet the targeted improvement of electricity access to underserved populations and meet the overall poverty reduction and sustainable development goals. The developed network will also serve as a functional local hub for local stakeholder engagement and ensuring the continuity of established RES projects, a regional information point for future communities’ interests in RES implementation, and for providing future training and support to drive the continued process of RES uptake (selection, purchase, installation and maintenance). These centres will be the regional custodians of the developed CEANGAL framework and tools, and will oversee its local administration.

  4. Replicating and promoting the widespread adoption and use of the project solutions across other SSA LICs, concentrating on those with the lowest electricity access per population. This will be achieved with a proactive exploitation strategy to maximise the project impact, and the acceptance of the CEANGAL outcomes as the “go to” mechanisms for LIC regions, post-project.

The CEANGAL project has an ambitious, feasible, and practical innovation agenda that aims at providing replicable mechanisms to increase the uptake of community-based RES systems and sustained growth in electricity accessibility in LIC rural communities. The project will deliver several measurable, high impact, strategic, societal, economic and organisational objectives as below:

  1. Develop an adaptable framework focused on the concept of sustainable community-driven RES implementation applicable in LIC communities. The CEANGAL framework will initially be refined and collaboratively developed with SSA RO partners (in targeted LICs with significant low electricity access). The framework will provide proven data-driven best practices, operational guidelines and considerations that should be covered to afford improved success in achieving RES acquisition and operation for prospective community driven electrification projects. The framework will also set-up potential roles and service offerings of the designated ROs as regional expertise hubs and external collaboration activities (i.e. with Irish RO) to support local implementation. The framework will be developed via intensive cooperation activities between the Irish and African ROs, and will address one of the main barriers to successful RES systems by providing relevant and adaptable mechanisms/structures to facilitate community electrification projects.

  2. Develop an integrated CEANGAL suite of tools, with tools that will support the CEANGAL framework concept and provide tangible information, estimation and decision support tools with functionalities to afford a detailed knowledge of RES choices, their suitability to meet the local energy requirements, conditions and resources, and specific guides on the installation, operation and maintenance of several suitable RES. These tools will meet the project aim of reducing the currently observed lack of know-how and expertise on the operations and maintenance of RES.
      1. Develop the component tools of the CEANGAL tools suite – The toolset will cover all major aspects of RES systems (from initial choice, to local mechanisms available to raise funds, acquisition, to installation and operation).
      2. Afford an intensive engagement of targeted local stakeholders in the tools development and refinement to ensure suitability to meet needs and ensure it is significantly adopted.
      3. Ensure the adoption and acceptance of the developed CEANGAL tools through testing, demonstration and validation in selected LIC test sites, ensuring the tools suitability to support RES, thus sustaining their operation.
  1. Provide improved local competencies and know-how on RES systems, community driven RES projects implementation, and establishment of regional RES expertise hubs with capabilities for supporting communities in achieving electricity accessibility goals through decentralised RES implementation.
    1. Enhance local RO competencies and expertise via collaboration and knowledge transfer and delivery of relevant short courses to serve as regional drivers to effectively meet the energy accessibility improvement goals.
    2. Improved engagement and communication with use communities, and establishment of community information centres to afford use of CEANGAL outputs, and as the main point for information exchange with regional hub.

  1. Improve the overall process economics of RES acquisition, improvement of knowledge and overall successful funding and purchase rates, and facilitating significant uptake of community-based RES.
    1. Collate and analyse relevant funding schemes and models utilisable to meet RES acquisition.
    2. Afford cost effective decision making on potential RES, and different ownership models.
    3. Achieving energy self-sufficiency, and identification of other potential energy carriers/uses.

  1. Contribute to the goals of the Irish Government’s “A Better World” and “Global Ireland: Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025” targets of creating a more equal and sustainable world by reaching those furthest behind, by driving growth and development opportunities through improved electricity access in LIC communities. This is expected to strengthen the operation of critical infrastructures and lead to the proliferation and growth of local industries.
    1. Develop a working replicable framework that can be easily adopted to afford decentralised RES and micro electrification projects in LIC communities currently without electricity access.
    2. Visibility of the successful use of the project outputs in selected demonstration sites, aimed for different use cases and geographic environments (and including gender specific considerations).
    3. Develop stakeholder driven roadmap & adoption strategy, operational and adoption barriers.
    4. Develop an exploitation plan which identifies how the project outcomes will be continued after the funding period.

  1. Improve the adoption and implementation of the CEANGAL project solutions by the relevant community stakeholders.
    1. Set-up of local contact and information centres for effective community engagement and as contact point.
    2. Further establish a pan-SSA network of relevant ROs and use communities to promote transfer and adoption of CEANGAL outputs from the initial project region (Malawi) to other LIC regions, and foster collaboration.
    3. Training of relevant community and other end-users to ensure project sustainability and increased local capacity.
    4. Wide dissemination of the CEANGAL progress/project outputs to regional and community stakeholders.

The methodology CEANGAL will implement for reaching its desired outcomes are:

  1. Firstly, the individual architectural blocks (for the CEANGAL framework and tools suite) are specified and developed by refining and advancing existing models and tools that are already available and currently used. Work Package (WP) 1 will be used for establishing the regional expertise RES hubs at UNIMA. The existing state of the art (SOTA) regarding policy, economic and technical local RES access will be documented and built on, with the local barriers limiting the proper adoption and use of RES outlined. This information will then be used for the framework design and specifications in WP 2, and will serve as the basis for establishing how the CEANGAL framework (and tools) go beyond the current SOTA. This is with the goal of addressing all the problems currently hindering electrification expansion as was presented in section 1.1.

  2. The created regional enterprise hub will work with the pre-selected pilot demonstration sites in WP 3, to set up local contact units, and with the CEANGAL PIs, organise engagement sessions, as well as further refine the CEANGAL framework and tools to meet the specific considerations of the initial demonstration cases. This step includes considerations for the selection of the best tools format, and the definition of the relevant services that each framework architectural block contributes to the targeted local audience. The resulting localised framework architecture and tools are then lab tested using internal dry-runs with assumed operational considerations for the test environments.

  3. With the success of the integration tests, the CEANGAL outcomes will be deployed to actual use cases in WP 4. Here the initially set requirements and objectives are evaluated in demonstration activities, based on the performance indicators and metrics that will be put forward. For the Malawi demonstration sites, the mechanisms for funding and RES acquisition will initially be focused on available civil society funding schemes and financial organisations long term low interest loans, with PV and bioenergy (i.e. AD) systems being the RES of interest. Successful demonstration outcomes will indicate that the desired community electrification goals can been reached using the CEANGAL solutions. Further refinements to the framework can be made following feedback received from the operational sites demonstration actions.

  4. Refined CEANGAL tools are available at the end of the demonstration activities following the feedback drawn from all the project stakeholders. Throughout the development and demonstration phases of the project, focused communication and dissemination activities will be carried out by all project partners to ensure the widest reach of the project related information and knowledge of its outputs (through WP 5). The training module/courses (including ODL content) to support the continued local competence enhancement are also developed in WP 5.

  5. The CEANGAL project places significant emphasis on the exploitation and future adoption of the developed solution in other SSA LIC communities. Through WP 6, the project puts forward an exploitation plan and defines mechanisms to reach other SSA LIC communities, supporting the overall viability of the uptake of the CEANGAL project outputs, thus increasing potential growth in electricity access across the continent.

The CEANGAL project looks to address two major interlinked critical global challenges: human driven climate change, and the persistent energy poverty facing a significant section of the global population. The majority of the currently underserved populations mainly live in rural areas, where the lack of modern energy services directly result in their reduced capacity to respond to, and deal with the harmful climate change effects. The CEANGAL project aims to afford the successful adoption and use of decentralised RES in such communities. With community driven RES ownership (and operation schemes) deemed to be a useful, important route to achieving improved energy accessibility, support mechanisms to afford the attainment of such goals (especially since there is a significant lack of local expertise and know-how on such systems) are crucial. The CEANGAL project directly meets this need by providing a comprehensive framework guiding the complete life cycle of community based RES, from idea conception, through funding, to system operation. The proposed framework is designed to be easily adaptable or modified to suit particular communities and local culture considerations and conditions of different SSA LIC regions. The CEANGAL project is thus significantly stakeholder driven (i.e. communities) in the methodology and tools development processes that will contribute to meet LIC rural communities electrification. CEANGAL also involves public and regional authorities who play a central role in future energy expansion and management scenarios. This is especially since different procedural and administrative requirements may exist, and since such authorities might be responsible for resource allocation (i.e. land) or drive policies which would further encourage the RES uptake in interested communities. The framework methodology of the project therefore has a significant consideration and involvement of such local authority players.

Significant research has been carried out on the use of standalone RES systems to achieve electricity access in previously underserved regions. Rapid and recent advances and improvements in the efficiencies and cost reduction of RES technologies (i.e. PV and micro-generation engines) have also encouraged the uptake of such systems globally. The concept of carrying out RES based electrification projects in the SSA region is not a novel one, but has usually been faced with the key issue of project sustainability i.e. continued operation and sustenance after the project commissioning. An extensive study carried out by Ikejemba et al (2017) investigated 29 publically driven RE projects in 10 SSA countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda), concluding that there were systemic recurring failures observed with the RE projects sustainability irrespective of the implementing country. The study proposed the use of four main solutions to potentially counter such failures: (i) improved transparency, (ii) clear ownership structures, (iii) shared responsibility, and (iv) community involvement in the RES projects. Furthermore, most existing RES based projects in the region are usually targeted to meet the provision of electricity for a selected infrastructure (i.e. street lighting or school), and there is a significant lack of larger scale projects to cover the energy needs of community inhabitants as well as businesses and the critical infrastructures contained in them.
The CEANGAL project is set to be ambitious in its goal, and specifically incorporates the considerations of all four solutions described by Ikejemba et al. (2017) in its framework and tools development. The project therefore goes beyond the commonly targeted electrification of single infrastructures (usually pursued by most projects), and is focused on providing the groundwork and tools necessary to afford the electrification of communities (and all of its components: households, basic infrastructures and small businesses), thus resulting in much improved societal, economic and environmental impacts.

The overall CEANGAL project concept is to set the foundation for the institution and future expansion of dedicated supporting structures and regional expertise centres which will serve interested communities with information, guidance and training relating to all aspects of community driven RES and improving the successful implementation of standalone off-grid electrification projects. The overall CEANGAL concept can therefore be broken down into four main concept phases (Figure 1), working synergistically to maximise outreach, information and know-how exchange, ownership and uptake of community RES, and successful sustained operation, thus ensuring increased energy access in currently underserved SSA LIC communities. A fifth phase (demonstration activities) is also included to ensure the viability of the project outcomes. A brief overview of the CEANGAL concept follows:

Figure 1. Overview of CEANGAL project, operational framework and tools

CEANGAL Regional Expertise and Knowledge Centres/Hubs:

The establishment and collaborative development of regional expertise hubs located in the LIC regions will be one of the primary approaches by the CEANGAL project to build the local competencies and support structures to afford the achievement of the project

goals. For the initial project scope, a regional expertise hub will be established at the University of Malawi-Polytechnic (UNIMA), Blantyre, Malawi by building and expanding on the initial competencies in RES and local development systems through collaborative research activities spearheaded by the Irish Project lead (in IT Sligo) and the local co-PI (Dr. Esther Phiri). The regional expertise centre activities will be initially guided by the knowledge acquired by the contract research unit (IT Sligo) from working with several successful Irish SECs. The regional hubs serve as an engagement hub, providing dedicated support to regional communities on all matters related to successful RES implementation. The services rendered will include advice and application assistance for funding initiatives for RES, assistance in sourcing RES, understanding of local regulations, and providing information and direction on the sustained operation and maintenance of installed RES. The hub will also aid the set-up of the local contact community centres, development of training courses, and the identification of new potential communities requiring electricity access.

CEANGAL Framework

The CEANGAL framework is one of the principal outputs of the project. It puts forward an operational architecture outlining most of the key considerations, actors and roles, as well as factors which must be covered to ensure the successful implementation of community RES projects. The framework developed via knowledge exchange between the Irish and Malawian researchers, will establish the important sequential steps, processes and approaches relevant in the local operating environment for sustainable RES projects. The regional expertise hub will be responsible for the overall administration and support activities outlined in the framework.

CEANGAL Tools Suite

The CEANGAL framework will be further supported by specifically produced tools which will serve to meet a range of purposes, ranging from providing RES information, to training manuals on different RES, easy to use energy demand calculators, RES selection suitable for local considerations, and financial decision tools to determine if the selected RES is an economically sensible option. Of importance, is the drive to have a robust set of tools which is relevant for the intended local stakeholders, and in the face of new technologies and future innovation. The eventual suite of tools will house several component tools made available in a range of easily accessible formats and available in local languages (i.e. digital, paper based and audio-visual). An overview of the tools which will be contained in the CEANGAL tools suite will include, but is not restricted to: Relevant funding mechanism database (periodically revised and updated listing of locally relevant funding schemes); RES selection tool (used to identify most suitable RES for the targeted environment, and considering local resources and factors); GHG Estimator (used for pre-and post RES selection, providing estimates on the GHG equivalencies based on the proposed community energy data and from the RES operation); Financial Decision Support Tool (provides the economic rationale that will support the consideration of strategies or options facilitating the community RES acquisition and long term operation); and RES Training manuals.

Training Modules/Courses for RES Ownership, Operation and Maintenance

The curriculum, content and delivery scope for relevant courses to afford the instruction and advance competencies of potential RES owners and operators, as well as interested actors in public authorities will be initially developed with UNIMA. These courses will support the overall aim of the CEANGAL project and will afford the sustained enhancement of local know-how in Malawi post project. In addition to taught physical lectures, the courses will be presented in the online distance learning (ODL) platform at UNIMA to ensure widest reach and impact. The modules will form a course structure which can be replicated in other SSA LICs.

CEANGAL will use an adaptive structured project management approach for the development, demonstration and refinement activities associated with the project. Two main types of project management approaches are currently used as standard practice: the waterfall and agile method. The waterfall method is where detailed designs are done from the start and documented in a specification, followed through with a project plan according to the design specification. The problem with this approach is that it often fails with larger projects, as it is very difficult to know what designs will work from the start. Hence its use for CEANGAL becomes difficult. This is especially since the project has to take into consideration different communities and the particular issues affecting them. In the agile method, detailed designs are not created from the start. The approach is to take small iterative, incremental steps in the solution development. With the agile method, there are many smaller working solutions of the overall solution implemented throughout the project lifecycle. The problem with the agile method is that the project can become directionless and there is a big tendency for “scope creep”. This can have impact on resources, timeframes and overall quality of the project outcomes. A supporting methodology to project implementation that has being used recently is Enterprise Architecture (EA). EA allows the project implementers to have a well-defined practice for conducting analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a comprehensive approach, for the successful development and execution of strategy to project implementation. For CEANGAL to be deemed successful, its practicality and adoption by the targeted end-users is of key importance. The project outcomes must therefore be societally and technologically relevant and implementable to ensure it has a real quantitative impact on potential electrification goals. The CEANGAL project will take the best of all three approaches combined into a new method for the project implementation. To achieve this, a new project development and implementation methodology-The Structured Adaptive Project Management, which is a hybrid of waterfall, agile and EA approaches, will be used. This will be not just for the start of the project but throughout the project lifecycle. With the hybrid method, EA will be used for the overall design and for streamlining elements of the project solutions that are repeating into a set of services that serve many aspects of the processes of the end-users. The project will then use waterfall for the overall framework design and architecture, and the agile method used for the small iterative steps, with each successful outcome feeding into the overall project solutions.

The demonstration and validation activities will be executed in the framework of WP 4 (see section 4 below), providing feedback directly informing the final operable CEANGAL solutions for future SSA LIC community users. Activities to highlight the actual use of CEANGAL solutions in real operational environments, with the impact assessments, feedback and recommendations from use communities/sites will be conducted. The demonstration sites were selected with assistance from the Department of Energy, Malawi from a priority list of eight off-grid “pre-electrification” candidate sites. The candidate sites represent an implementation intention in which off-gird technologies are tested in one village, and if successful, would be scaled-up to neighboring communities. To qualify the village had to be more than 10 km from an existing grid line and within 1 km of a health center or dispensary. One of the highest priority goals of electricity access programs is power for health needs, particularly in rural clinics that serve isolated communities, and for agricultural processing needs. Information on the villages population is provided as number of households (one household = 4 people). In addition to the community village use cases, the CEANGAL project additionally demonstrates the project use for meeting gender empowerment considerations through RES ownership. For this, the impacts of RES ownership and operation by a women’s cooperative is included in the project validation and demonstration activities. By the project end, through its demonstration activities, electricity access for ≈3800 people is attainable, thus providing good value for money.


Case 1
Kazyozyo Village

Case 2
Mapira Village

Kazyozyo is in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mkanda in Mchinji district, Central Region, Malawi. The village has a population of 409 households. The village is 10.7 km from existing grid lines and 441 m from Kazyozyo Dispensary 

Mapira is in the area Sub Chief (SC) Khosolo Gwaza Jere, Mzimba District, Northern Region. The village has 255 Households. The village is 17 km from existing grid lines and 433 m from Khosolo Health Centre.

Case 3

Lulanga Village

Case 4
Case No 4
: Kanthu N’khama Women’s Cooperative:

Lulanga is in the area of TA Makanjila, Mangochi District, Southern Region. The village has 275 households. The village is 13.2 km from existing grid lines and 844 m from Lulanga Health Centre.

is a newly formed cooperative operating in Mgonalimo Village, GVH Chinjoka, TA Mzikuwola, Mzimba District, and Northern Region. It consists of 50 women from both the rural and urban areas, of which a fifth of these are youth. The group is involved in agriculture and currently growing their first crops, namely bananas and beans at their farm. They plan to expand the banana processing, through value addition. The provision of energy is a necessity to the cooperative to improve the further processing and preservation of crops, value added products and for irrigation.

“The success of the CEANGAL project will play an important role in establishing how developed countries can support low-income communities in achieving improved electricity accessibility while supporting their green transition goals by enhancing local capacity and implementation structures”
Dr Ehiaze Ehimen,
CEANGAL coordinator & Lead Investigator

Work packages​

An overview of the different project work packages, tasks, as well as the specific milestones, deliverables and overall expected outcomes from the CEANGAL project are provided in the tables below:
  • To set up the operational regional expertise hub in Malawi, which will be used to support the CEANGAL project goals and further administer the RES adoption framework in the region; 
  • Report on the SOTA of existing tools and models, identify organisational and systemic management limitations and issues facing the effective use of existing models and tools;

  • Develop a roadmap of key actions to advance SOTA and increased RES adoption.

  • Further refine end-user requirements for successful community RES projects based on previous experiences, related initiatives, funding and environmental considerations;

  • Derive the starting framework specifications and architecture for the project, the administration and operational components tools based on the potential user requirements;

  • Establish the initial validation scenarios and metrics. Identify the key operational metrics and criteria for evaluating the project solutions;

  • Development and initial refinement of CEANGAL tools.

  • Set up local contact centres to afford engagement with community stakeholders in test sites;
  • Obtain specific real-life local requirements and use to further refine outputs from WP1&2;

  • Execute integration and initial lab testing of the CEANGAL structures, framework and tools;

  • Provide an integrated project solution for field demonstration and validation activities in WP4.

  • Definition and execution of the preparatory activities prior to site demonstration;

  • Organisation of demonstration, validation activities in selected case study communities;

  • Identification of impact of project demonstration outcomes in test communities.

  • Achieve further refinement of the CEANGAL outcomes if deemed necessary post-demonstration;

  • Organise/execute training on use of the CEANGAL solutions and tools to different stakeholders;

  • Develop communication strategy, maintain and control dissemination actions to ensure maximum

    project concept and outcomes dissemination.

  • Achieve further refinement of the CEANGAL outcomes if deemed necessary post-demonstration;

  • Develop the CEANGAL exploitation strategy and define future business cases (post-project);

  • Provide a precise roadmap as a market strategy for the CEANGAL expansion & solutions adoption.

  • To properly manage the CEANGAL project and to ensure compliance with project scope, schedule and budget. Manage the project reporting, administrative and financial project aspects;

  • To ensure project technical management including technical planning and scientific coordination;

  • To ensure the quality of project outcomes through Quality Management mechanisms;

  • To ensure that data management, legal, ethical and gender issues are fully considered and followed.