Solar home systems can help to bridge the electrification gap in developing countries – if certain conditions are met.

This article focuses on solar home systems (SHSs) that provide what the World Bank has defined as Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels of electrification; that is, the basic lighting, mobile-telephone charging, and entertainment needs of a typical rural, low-income household in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia (exhibit).

Tier 1 and 2 systems include a small solar panel ranging from the size of a shoebox to that of a small suitcase. The size depends on the wattage, with a minimum of three watts for Tier 1 and 50 watts for Tier 2. The panel, placed on the roof of the home, connects to a battery it recharges. In East Africa, Tier 1 systems typically include two to four light points on cables that can be hung from separate places. In addition, the SHS can charge a flashlight, a mobile telephone, and a radio.

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