Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Len Broberg

Commitee Members

Joshua Slotnick , Steve Seibert


energy, development, international, climate, electricity


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Other Civil and Environmental Engineering


Today about a third of the world’s population has no access to electricity, and another third has only limited access. Driven by the push for development on one hand and the reality of climate change on the other, a combination of for-profit companies, NGOs, missions, and aid organizations is looking for the silver bullet to sustainable electricity development. In order to understand the challenges facing off-grid electricity projects I used recent literature in the form of peer-reviewed journals, agency reports, news articles, and technical documents; stakeholder interviews; and on-site observations in selected case studies in Nepal, India, and Tanzania. In each case I explored and classified methods of electrification; challenges facing each method; and the larger political, cultural, and economic contexts of the projects in question. The full range of considerations precludes drawing broad generalizations regarding effective and sustainable approaches to rural electrification. I address questions raised by these case studies regarding the role of off-grid electricity globally. The sought-after silver bullet does not exist; instead, sustainable electrification requires unique, bottom-up approaches specific to each local community and environment. Ultimately, the diversity of methods is an advantage in a rapidly changing energy climate.



© Copyright 2016 Peter McDonough