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Supporting Social and Gender Equity Through Micro-Grid Deployment in the DR Congo

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Energy use has long been associated with improvements in development and social outcomes but in many areas, realization of these benefits is stalled by the challenges of building out the infrastructure for a centralized grid. The development of mini-and micro-grids has opened up new opportunities for electricity access by offering flexibility in deployment, the potential for more localized control, and greater versatility in financing options. When powered by renewable energy, these systems offer the additional benefit of environmental gains. While tools to optimize clean energy system deployment in traditional contexts exist, there remains a need for an approach that links the identification of appropriate energy systems with the unique social context of off-grid communities, such as conflict resolution, gender equity, and the limitation of illegal environmental degradation. Below, we propose that a data-informed, participatory framework can assist in site selection and design process for deploying microgrids, to maximize the likelihood that electricity provision will lead to positive social and environmental outcomes, including the reduction of tensions and the promotion of peace in conflict-prone regions. We apply this framework to communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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