Abstract The limited access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy in sub-Saharan Africa could inhibit the region's realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The intermittency and unreliability of power supply in the region has led countries, especially in the eastern sub-region, to implement sustainable energy solutions for rural electrification, thereby improving electricity supply access to underserved and unserved communities. With this focus on rural electrification, a deficit in electricity supply to urban settlements could arise, owing to the economic feasibility of extending the power grid towards securing electricity access for a growing population and the increasing number of rural-urban migrators. This paper reviews existing literature on electrifying sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the prescriptions for deploying energy solutions in the region. Consequently, a country-level case study on grid defection solutions for Nigerian commercial centres assessing 14 different designs of Integrated Power Systems’ (IPS) operations against the three impact metrics of cost implication ($/lifetime), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (CO2 tonnes/yr.) and surplus energy (MWh/yr.), is presented. The systematic analysis demonstrates that an integrated hybrid-solar-photovoltaics (PV)-based system (IHSS) without battery storage, serving 56% of its load from solar-PV and 44% from fossil-fuelled generators provides the lowest cost power supply option. The modelled system generated 25 MWh/yr. in surplus energy and emitted 53% fewer GHG emissions than the largest emitter. A compelling case is made whereby augmenting existing infrastructure with an appropriately sized PV plant will significantly reduce costs and simultaneously have a significant impact on GHG emissions. The generation of surplus energy also presents an opportunity to augment urban electrification through custom-fit sustainable energy solutions and the formation of a transactive electricity market.

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