The Chinese electricity access model for rural electrification: approach, experience and lessons for others

Subhes C. Bhattacharyya, Sanusi Ohiare

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    60 Citations (Scopus)


    The economic and infrastructural disparities between the rural and urban communities of most developing countries in general and in terms of energy access in particular are quite glaring. China presents a good example of a developing country that has successfully embarked on rural electrification projects over the last few decades and achieved a great feat of almost 100% electrification rate (. World Energy Outlook, 2009, International Energy Agency, Paris (see IEA website at The purpose of this paper is to find out how China has achieved this feat; how China's rural energy projects were financed and whether China provides lessons for other countries to follow. The above questions are examined through an extensive literature review and the paper finds that unlike many other countries following the top-down approach to rural electrification, China has preferred to use a phased development through a bottom-up approach where local resources, and village level development and empowerment played an important role. While the state provided the overall guidance and financial support, the integrated rural development approach has produced local-level solutions that are subsequently integrated to produce an alternative development pathway. Strong government commitment, active local participation, technological flexibility and diversity, strong emphasis on rural development through agricultural and industrial activities and an emphasis on capacity building and training have also played an important role in the success. However, despite achieving the universal access objective, China still faces a number of issues related to rural electricity use, especially in terms of regional use patterns, long-term sustainability of supply and commercial operation of the systems. The Chinese model could serve as an inspiration for other developing countries trying to ensure universal electricity access.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)676-687
    Number of pages12
    JournalEnergy Policy
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


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