Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

Does basic energy access generate socioeconomic benefits? A field experiment with off-grid solar power in India

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Science Advances  17 May 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 5, e1602153
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602153

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Abstract

This article assesses the socioeconomic effects of solar microgrids. The lack of access to electricity is a major obstacle to the socioeconomic development of more than a billion people. Off-grid solar technologies hold potential as an affordable and clean solution to satisfy basic electricity needs. We conducted a randomized field experiment in India to estimate the causal effect of off-grid solar power on electricity access and broader socioeconomic development of 1281 rural households. Within a year, electrification rates in the treatment group increased by 29 to 36 percentage points. Daily hours of access to electricity increased only by 0.99 to 1.42 hours, and the confidence intervals are wide. Kerosene expenditure on the black market decreased by 47 to 49 rupees per month. Despite these strong electrification and expenditure effects, we found no systematic evidence for changes in savings, spending, business creation, time spent working or studying, or other broader indicators of socioeconomic development.

Keywords
  • rural electrification
  • solar microgrid
  • India
  • randomized field experiment

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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