Off-grid solar power and rural electrification

While grid extension is the main driver of rural electrification in India today and almost all Indian villages are now electrified, the reality at the habitation and household level is very different. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the electrification of rural households remains a daunting challenge for state governments.

Considering these facts and the falling costs of off-grid solar power, distributed alternatives to grid extension have drawn a lot of attention in India. Here, we report results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that we conducted recently in rural Uttar Pradesh, on the energy access and socioeconomic benefits of an off-grid solar power intervention (Aklin, Michaël, Patrick Bayer, S.P. Harish and Johannes Urpelainen, 2017), “Does basic energy access generate socioeconomic benefits? A field experiment with off-grid solar power in India”, Science Advances).

While the RCT did not find evidence of substantial social or economic benefits, we found that India’s kerosene subsidies likely hold back the expansion of off-grid solar markets and that there are many ways in which the benefits of off-grid solar power can be enhanced.

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