Research on how to design effective business models points to the need for a more service-oriented approach, in which user needs and experiences are more clearly reflected in mini-grid business model design. In this paper, authors explore how mini-grid business models might be designed so they are more responsive to user needs and maximise positive user experiences. the study focuses on the case of a privately developed 6 kW solar PV mini-grid in northwestern Tanzania, commissioned in late 2018.

The authors employ user journey mapping – a method drawn from service design – to better understand users’ needs, expectations and experiences associated with adopting and using electricity services from the mini-grid, and behavioural and socio-cultural aspects of transition from traditional to modern energy services. They find that catering for household and business users requires more than a single value proposition from mini-grid developer. Moreover, expectation management is crucial to avoid disappointment and dissatisfaction amongst all groups of users after the mini-grid is up and running. Lastly, continuous engagement to improve the user experience after connection could mitigate the risk of service disuse or ‘energy stacking’. These findings are of relevance to policymakers and practitioners seeking to support scaling up of mini-grids in rural Africa as part of efforts to reach universal energy access.