Summer Semester 2015: Al-Dhafeer

In the first term of the EaDP, we dealt with the centre of the greater village of Al-Dhafeer in the mountains of Hajjah, Yemen. The village, which lies to the north-west of the capital Sana’a, is home to nearly 1,500 residents, which mainly make their living from agriculture. The village is regarded as quiet and safe. Actually, Al-Dhafeer has had acess to electricity with all households owning lamps and simple household devices. However, since the Yemeni national electricity grid is prone to instabilities with an average of about 40 outages per month (World Development Indicators 2015), Al-Dhafeer usually only had electricity access for a few hours daily. With the emerging civil war following the events of 2014, the village was cut from electricity completely about one year ago, throwing its inhabitants back into a pre-electrical lifestyle. The EaDP SS 2015 attempted to create immediate plans for changing this situation to the benefit of the villagers.

After studying basics of development studies, decision-making methods, and appropriate engineering solutions as well as up-to-date research on rural energy access, students entered one of five groups, each being confronted with a different dimension of the planning process. These were electrification, agricultural support, cooking solutions, lighting planning, and financing options. Over a period of about two months, the students worked in these groups and presented their intermediate results every week to discuss them with the whole project group.

As reasoned above, the core task of the project clearly consisted in the village’s re-electrification. Besides environmental considerations, the fact that Yemen often suffers from fuel shortages makes the exclusive usage of fuel-based generators not an option. Hence, the electricity group studied the local circumstances to find that Al-Dhafeer is a location perfectly eligible for the usage of solar panels, due to the high levels, predictability, and constancy of solar irradiations as well as modest temperatures. Using a survey of the electric devices used by the villagers, their planned purchases, and their individual willingness to pay for electricity, the group worked on the formalisation of a reasonable load profile. Techno-economic assessments led to the decision to split the village into two distinct grid areas, each of them served by central generation spots. Subsequently, the group used mathematical modelling techniques and civil engineering practise to propose a preliminary cost-minimising energy mix and a plan for the installation of the panels, other necessary appliances, and the distribution lines. Later calculations by the finance group confirmed that this proposal is feasible.

Despite an intensive effort by the corresponding students, it soon turned out that agricultural support is limited to overall electrification and minor tweaks in irrigation methods, since the farming process has been optimised over generations to its current state. The lighting planning group focussed on two points: First, it became clear that a mainly PV-based electricity grid is subject to an enormous pressure, if inefficient, old lamps are used. Hence, an important element is the replacement of all old indoor lamps with new, energy-efficient lamps. However, in line with the overall re-electrification scheme, the group refused to engage in any further planning of indoor lighting, since these decisions should be considered and done exclusively by the residents themselves. This preserves both the cultural integrity and is much more likely to lead to utility-efficient results, since an external planning would require data that is not available. Concerning the outdoor lighting, the group studied international guidelines to find an affordable but yet useful distancing of outdoor lights. To further relieve the planned electricity grid, the project tries to rely on stand-alone solar lamps. Using pictures of the village and original maps, the group finally proposed a detailed positioning system for street lights, which waits to be realised.

Lastly, an important task of the cooking group consisted in the improvement of the villagers' standards of cooking in terms of cost efficiency, indoor air pollution, and usability. Since a significant share of the villagers still use firewood-based stoves, the cooking group successfully developed a basic plan for a self-made solar cooker, which can be built by the villagers themselves using easy-to-find materials. Another central point has been made by the cooking group in cooperation with the electricity group: Currently, many residents own electric water heaters, which create high spikes in the electricity demand. To both take pressure from the proposed grid and use cost-efficient alternative technologies, the group proposed the construction of simple solar water heaters, which can be situated either on single rooftops for private usage or in central places for the public.

These results provide a solid basis to continue planning and to begin the implementation in the near future. The EaDP WS 2015/16 will continue working on this case by specifying design and quantification as well an extension of the planning to houses outside the village’s centre.


View of Al-Dhafeer, Hajjah, Yemen


Impressions from Al-Dhafeer

Electricity Group Example

Example of the electricity group's work.

Example of the outdoor lighting plans

Example of the outdoor lighting plans.

Project group in SS 2015

The project group of the Summer Semester 2015.