Rural electrification: An overview of optimization methods
In order to provide “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” by 2030 under Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), rural electrification needs significant progress as the majority of people without access to electricity reside in rural areas. Optimization methods can play a critical role in this progress, providing an analytical framework to achieve a variety of economic, social, and environmental objectives subject to budget, resources, local demographics and other constraints. This review paper presents the first overview of optimization-based solution methodologies developed or applied for rural electrification. Based on our review, we first propose four archetype problems for rural electrification, namely (i) optimal system configuration and unit sizing, (ii) optimal power dispatch strategy, (iii) optimal technology choice, and (iv) optimal network design. We discuss each problem type, and provide a systematic classification based on the problem objective, proposed solution methodology, components, scale, region as well as their relationship to the different SDG7 components. We reveal research gaps and open questions for future studies for energy researchers and aim to draw the attention of the optimization community to the challenging and unique problems that need urgent attention in this critical area.