'Electricity-in-a-Box' Brings Innovative Power Solution to Afghanistan's Off-Grid Communities

News Release | 18 December 2018

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (18 December 2018) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) of Afghanistan today inaugurated the distribution of 80 off-grid solar kits, called “electricity-in-a-box”, to rural households near Kabul without grid electricity.

Residents of Naway Niyaz Village of Char Asyab District will receive the innovative electricity solution that packages together three disruptive energy technologies: solar power, super-efficient appliances, and lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars.

The inauguration was attended by Afghanistan Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Mr. Mujib Rahman Karimi, Minister of Energy and Water Mr. Gul Mohammad Khulmi, and ADB Country Director for Afghanistan Mr. Samuel Tumiwa. 

“Access to clean and affordable electricity is a very important driving factor for inclusive economic growth and social development of rural communities in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Tumiwa. “Although the long-term goal is to provide access to grid-electricity for all of Afghanistan, this may take some time. As an interim measure, we need to provide access to electricity as soon as possible. These kits are part of this solution.”

Historically, rural households use kerosene for lighting and small diesel generators for more intensive energy use. However, kerosene and diesel generators are both environmentally unsafe and prolonged use have caused severe health issues such as eye and lung diseases. They are also very expensive.

The “electricity-in-a-box” package uses recent technological advances to make off-grid connections economically more viable and environmentally friendly. In the past, solar packages only provided solar photovoltaic panels and lead acid batteries for lighting. The “electricity-in-a-box” provide not only the solar photovoltaic panels to generate energy, but also more durable lithium-ion batteries for storage and energy efficient 12-volt DC appliances including a television set, refrigerator, fan, and LED lights for daily household usage. The recipients will contribute a monthly fee, through a community led cooperative, for operation and maintenance of the kits.

Based on this pilot project, ADB and MRRD are exploring and expanding the provision of electricity-in-a-box throughout the country, especially in border provinces.

The project is part of ADB’s regional technical assistance for Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) countries to promote inclusive economic growth and deliver sustainable energy supply to rural households. The pilot project will increase awareness on off-grid solar electrification to communities, private sector and public institutions with design specifications being publicly available for replication, and adoption through the private sector. This pilot project is also currently being carried out in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. There are future plans to also introduce these kits to rural communities in Pakistan.

ADB is Afghanistan’s largest development partner in the energy sector with cumulative grant assistance of nearly $2.2 billion, all of which is on budget with the government. Over the coming years, ADB will support the increase in the country’s electrification rate from 30% to 83% and lift the share of domestic generation from 20% to 67% by 2030. ADB also plays a major role in power transmission both regionally and domestically, and promote clean energy, including through solar power.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.