Access to clean, affordable, modern, and reliable power is essential for health, education, and economic prosperity, in addition to reducing missions. However, in Tanzania, more than 30 million people—about half the country’s population—are living without access to basic electricity services.

In addition, reliable data has been a key constraint to development across Africa, affecting all sectors that contribute to human well-being, including energy. Energy expansion planning often relies on limited data, making the development of data-driven integrated energy plans and market expansion strategies a greater task and potentially inefficient. To address these challenges, access to reliable data and analytical tools is critical.

This publication offers clean energy solution providers in Tanzania an updated geospatial database for operating mini-grids through Energy Access Explorer (EAE), a “Digital Public Good” software. The database is a collaboration between local actors in the private and public sectors following agreed data standards. It showcases the key role that standardized, open-access data and open-source tools can play in a data-driven approach for development in rural and last-mile communities.

The publication also demonstrates the potential use of EAE in developing market expansion geospatial analysis. It does so by means of illustrative example scenarios that show how geospatial data can assist in expanding businesses and introducing targeted investment towards developing resilient communities.

This short demo shows how to access the mini-grid data in Tanzania on through Energy Access Explorer.

Key Findings:

Tanzania offers an attractive market for off-grid energy supply solutions, including mini-grids, standalone systems and clean cooking solutions, given the country’s low electrification rate in rural communities.   

  1. In Tanzania, the rate of household connectivity to the national grid is 29%; rural connectivity is 11%, while Dar es Salaam is 86%, and other urban areas are 59%, making rural grid connectivity much lower than that of urban areas. While an off-grid solution like solar home systems (SHSs) provide electricity for 32% of rural households.
  2. In 2018, the Government of Tanzania decided to set up a uniform tariff for mini-grids, effectively halting significant developments of private mini-grids, which put operating companies in an extreme financial position. In 2021, this tariff issue was resolved by allowing individual developers to discuss and negotiate with the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) to produce cost-reflective tariffs. Some companies have already been issued new and better tariff structures, and the current market is now favorable to the development of mini-grids.  
  3. Currently, Tanzania relies on both natural gas and hydropower for electricity generation. The Tanzanian government plans to diversify the national energy mix and aims to achieve universal access by 2030 through grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions.  

Energy Access Explorer (EAE) now offers over 70 datasets in Tanzania that provide insights on energy demand and supply, including data on mini-grids, which enhances the power of the platform for both clean energy companies and energy planners.  

  1. EAE allows users to identify areas where access to energy should be prioritized through custom analysis. Data can be used to identify key challenges and opportunities for market expansion in Tanzania, such as the location of populated areas and the distance of these communities to the current power grid infrastructure. They can also help inform additional research around a project or plan including cost, design, and sizing of a system.  
  2. Since the launch of EAE Tanzania in 2019, the platform has evolved to integrated and offer new data, and today comprises over 70 datasets, which now includes data on mini-grids.   
  3. An updated Tanzania mini-grid database -- which currently includes 135 mini-grids across mainland Tanzania -- was developed collaboratively with various actors in the private and public sectors.   
  4. Mini-grids are integrated into the platform and can be toggled on and off as one of several layers of data. The mini-grids themselves are color-coded based on the technologies utilized, and users can access information per each mini-grid including capacity, location, status, type of connection, and ownership. The data can be explored at local, subnational and national levels.  

The paper reveals a number of facts about the state of mini-grids within Tanzania.  

  1. EAE now has data on 135 mini-grids across mainland Tanzania.  
  2. Over 70 percent of mini-grid systems at the national level are privately owned.  
  3. Solar PV and hydropower are the most common technologies in Tanzanian mini-grids, accounting for nearly 80% of existing mini-grids, with solar at 55.6% and hydropower at 23.0%.  

This report paper provides six “scenarios” that illustrate how to use the EAE platform to create custom analyses that can inform the opportunities in expanding the market for energy solutions.

  1. The multi-criteria analysis (MCA) scenarios developed with EAE for this publication show how the analyses can be customized based on the user’s unique perspective and priorities.
  2. MCA analyses allow users to explore key data, understand if and how the data are connected, gain insights into identifying opportunities for market expansion, and support related research that is aggregated and summarized at different levels (local, subnational, and national).
  3. EAE is designed to provide decision assistance, allowing users to explore different scenarios, compare alternatives, prioritize locations, and identify trade-offs using an MCA.
Figure 7 from report.

Cover image by Jumeme