© 2018 Elsevier Ltd Generally speaking, increasing rural marginalisation in sub-Saharan Africa has sat alongside a rise in energy poor homes in rural off-grid communities. Even measures meant to improve electricity access have exacerbated the energy access gap between grid connected and off-grid homes. For example, the South African Non-Grid Electrification Policy Guidelines for electrifying off-grid, rural poor homes promote the adoption of Solar Home Systems (SHS), which are expected to produce 7.5 kWh/month on average. However, for poor homes within grid coverage, the Free Basic Electricity (FBE) programme allocates 50 kWh/month. This paper investigates the resulting disparity in terms of electricity cost (ZAR/kWh), including associated costs for heating, cooking and other needs. It does so through the energy justice framework, highlighting the mismatch in policy formulation (procedural injustice), resource distribution (distributive injustice) and spatial distribution (injustice in the recognition of population groups’ special needs). Through a combination of mathematics and social science perspectives, it then moves beyond a critique of the current SHS system to proposes a new one: a hybrid generation approach with a flexible pricing scheme and centralized system of operation that is both ethically compliant and capable of improving electricity access to off-grid communities with standards comparable to grid access.