In doing so, they will contribute greatly to a shift in household and community energy use from reliance on traditional fuels to more modern energy services. However, such a shift is a complex and uncertain process, with mini-grids often struggling to achieve sustainability after initial project funding ends.

This paper draws on service design approaches to understand challenges associated with adoption of electricity services from the user perspective. By developing a user journey map, the study explores users’ experience associated with connecting to and using electricity services from a 60 kW solar mini-grid in Mpanta, a small rural fishing community in northern Zambia.

The study finds that poor expectation management and limited integration of local socioeconomic dynamics in mini-grid service design, including their impact on affordability, has led to a slow and partial shift in household energy use. Better incorporation of the user perspective in the design, implementation and evaluation of mini-grids can help to identify potential barriers to adoption of electricity services and adapt it to the local context.