Principles of Successful Expansion of Rural Electrification Programs

by Daniel Waddle
March 20, 2012

This working paper by Daniel Waddle (NRECA International) was commissioned for the 2012 Pacific Energy Summit on “Innovation Generation: Powering a Prosperous Asia.”

The paper presents an overview of the contributing factors to the design, implementation, and sustainability of successful rural electrification programs. The Executive Summary is also available in Vietnamese.



Rural electrification programs require a number of conditions in the institutional environment to ensure successful and sustainable program expansion. Due to the specific challenges posed by low population density, low energy demand, and undeveloped rural economies, these programs require special financing conditions, design and construction standards specifically formulated to address rural power-supply characteristics, and a program management agency with the expertise required to adapt to country-specific realities. This paper will examine both the conditions and requirements for designing successful rural electrification programs that achieve high rural electrification penetration rates and the issues that may challenge long-term success during program implementation. It will further explore lessons learned from selected successful rural electrification programs.

  • Well-designed electrification programs contribute significantly to rural economic development, but only if the resulting electric service is reliable, affordable, and accessible to a significant proportion of the communities served.
  • Ensuring that infrastructure costs are reasonable has a direct impact on not only the affordability of electric service, but also on the potential impact of the program in terms of cost per household or business served. Moreover, given the need for other essential public services that require electricity, such as healthcare, primary education, safe water supply, and transportation, ensuring that program implementation is economically efficient directly benefits both the government and
  • Given the potential economic benefits of affordable and reliable electric service, long-term institutional and financial sustainability is essential.

Daniel Waddle is Senior Vice President for NRECA International.