Politics researcher reveals benefits of off-grid solar power in rural India

Issued: Wed, 24 May 2017 10:18:00 BST

Dr Patrick Bayer, alongside fellow researchers from the United States, have carried out ground-breaking analysis of the benefits of grid solar power to rural communities in India. 

Almost a quarter billion people in India have no access to electricity due to the high cost of extending the electricity grid to remote, rural areas. However, with a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels, interest has grown in the use of off-grid solar power as an alternative, especially since solar power is cleaner than fossil fuels. 

The academics worked in partnership with an Indian solar service provider, Mera Gao Power (MGP), to conduct the first randomised controlled trial designed to measure the causal effects of installing solar microgrids in 81 non-electrified villages in Barabanki district of the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Households in these villages previously had no electricity and used simple kerosene lamps to light their homes.

They found that the villagers spent considerably less money on buying kerosene for lighting their homes after subscribing to the MGP service: however, they also found no evidence of broader socio-economic impacts on household savings, expenditures, local business creation, how much time women spent on productive work, or children’s use of lighting to study.

Dr Bayer said 'MGP's customers replaced kerosene lamps with solar lighting, but they didn't save money or find new ways to earn it. Basic energy access, which essentially provides bright lights and mobile charging, was not enough to unlock economic opportunity.' He added 'Our findings do not imply that larger systems cannot produce broader socio-economic benefits, but generating such benefits may require more expensive solutions.'

Dr Bayer has co-authored an article on his team's findings for Sciences Advance and The Economist has also published an article on the research in their latest print edition. 


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