Electricity experts have met in Côte d’Ivoire to study the use of low voltage direct current (LVDC) to increase access to electricity in rural areas. IEC ambassador Vimal Mahendru was among the IEC experts sharing their experience and technical insights.
Despite the introduction of direct current (DC) by Thomas Edison over 100 years ago, countries adopted alternating current (AC) given that it could be produced in bigger power stations located in the outskirts of cities and transported over long distances with less expensive cables and at different voltages. However, current trends have reopened the discussions on adopting of DC electricity.
A recent workshop in Abidjan organized by Codinorm and the IEC provided participants with insight on LVDC and its use to provide electricity access in Africa. Over 80 participants, including experts from Europe, Asia and Africa, led discussions that provided information on LVDC, the work of the IEC in developing Standards for LVDC and a case study on the experience of introducing LVDC in India. The workshop was hosted by the Compagnie Ivoirienne d’ Electricité (CIE) at its premises.
Dialogue between participants was a key part of the workshop. While IEC presenters shared their knowledge on LVDC, they also wanted to learn directly from participants about their country’s current electricity needs. In break-out sessions, participants discussed their contribution to electricity access and their ideas for improving access. Participants also presented the results of group discussions on the various electricity needs in homes, villages and rural areas.
Renewed interest in LVDC has been sparked by the technology’s suitability in providing electricity in rural areas that are currently not served by the electrical grid. LVDC can be generated anywhere using renewable energy. And because solar, wind and water energy all yield DC electricity, it is more efficient to use the DC electricity directly for DC driven devices rather than converting it to AC and back to DC again. Electricity generated from off-grid, renewable energy can be used for applications such as water pumping and healthcare services.
In India, 48 LVDC pilot projects have brought electricity access in areas with diverse geographies. Electricity has been used for pumping water as well as in homes and schools. It is estimated that LVDC electricity has been deployed in 30,000 homes.
Given that the standardization of LVDC technologies requires a holistic approach, the IEC has set up a dedicated systems committee (SyC). Using a systems approach, it is possible to examine the properties of the system as a whole and how the parts interact with each other rather than the action of each part separately. SyC LVDC provides guidance on the standardization of LVDC and includes the input from various IEC technical committees including those related to solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems (TC 82), the safety of electrical installations (TC 64) and electric accessories (TC 23).
More information on LVDC and IEC standardization is available on the IEC LVDC web zone.