Sustainable rural electrification in the developing world using microgrid integration of biogas and other renewable energy sources: A study of the engineering and behavioural challenges, and human/technology interaction

Lead supervisor: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Mechanical Engineering
Co-supervisor(s): Dr George Konstantopoulos, Automatic Control and Systems EngineeringDr Christopher Jones, PsychologyDr Mark Walker, Mechanical EngineeringProfessor Shibani Chaudhury, Department of Environmental Studies, Visva Bharati University

All academic enquiries should be sent to Dr Mark Walker (

Deadline: Thursday 23 February 2017

Applications for this project have now closed.

Project description

Recent studies estimate that close to two-thirds of the world’s population live in rural areas and around 1.3 Billion people, mainly living in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, have little or no access to electricity.

As an alternative to conventional large-scale electricity grid infrastructure is the use of off-grid integrated renewable energy systems (IRES) coupled with community scale microgrids, which can offer low-carbon electricity supply using locally available renewable resources.

Biogas, produced though anaerobic digestion from local biomass resources which are abundant across much of the global south, can play a role in electrification whilst delivering additional benefits such as improved indoor air quality, public health and sanitation, reduced gender inequality and promotion of sustainable agriculture.

This PhD project will investigate the design, operation, implementation and long-term community acceptance of rural electrification systems using biogas and other renewable technologies and will involve both modelling and field-based investigation.

The project will involve an interdisciplinary approach and would seek to understand the interrelated criteria for successful IRES based energy projects. For example: (1) appropriateness of technology and optimised system scaling, (2) quantification of the electrical demand and its links to current and future behaviours, (3) understating criteria for community uptake and long-term acceptance of the technology and, (4) the provision of a dependable electrical supply by robust control of the microgrid and component energy systems.


Through the existing international collaboration between the University of Sheffield and Visva Bharati in India, the work will benefit from access to a rural electrification site that is currently powering 45 households across two Indian villages. The student will be expected to travel to India in order to perform technical and social field studies on both this system as well as other non-electrified villages nearby.

Keywords: rural electrification; energy access; anaerobic digestion; biogas; microgrid; biomass; renewable energy

Subject areas: Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Electrical and Electronic, Energy, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Science, Data Analysis, Mechanical Engineering, Psychology

Funding notes

This four-year studentship will be fully funded at Home/EU or international rates. Support for travel and consumables (RTSG) will also be made available at standard rate of £2,627 per annum, with an additional one-off allowance of £1,000 for a computer in the first year.  Students will receive an annual stipend of £17,336.