Unattainable proximity: Solar power and peri-urbanity in central Burkina Faso

Roberto Cantoni*, Lea Skræp Svenningsen, Safiétou Sanfo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In the community of Zagtouli, close to Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, lies West Africa's largest solar power plant. This is a 33 MW, on-grid, photovoltaic plant. Operational from late 2017, it produces electricity for Burkina Faso's public energy company, SONABEL. The electric grid built between the plant and Ouagadougou crosses Zagtouli in its middle: however, electricity connections throughout the community are markedly non-homogeneous. In particular, most of the southern half of Zagtouli suffers from a condition known in the literature as ‘under-the-grid’: namely, close to the grid but unable to connect to it. The benefits stemming from the presence of the nearby plant, therefore, remain unattainable for a large share of the local community. Drawing on an ethnographic investigation of energy practices and uses conducted in Zagtouli, we employ the theoretical framework of energy justice to analyse the connection between local justice issues and national electrification strategies. We claim that the national preference for on-grid, centralised plants may not adequately respond to the need for a more just local energy distribution; and that for peri-urban areas that are not planned to be fully connected to the grid in the short term, smaller-scale, decentralised solutions may be more appropriate to achieve full electricity access.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112127
JournalEnergy Policy
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Solar energy
  • Energy justice
  • Burkina faso
  • Renewable energy policy
  • Under-the-grid communities


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