Our first collaborative project with the Institute For Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP) at Johns Hopkins has just begun. Over the next few months we will be distributing 230 solar lights in India to study the impact that access to electricity has on off grid households. ISEP will be running in depth survey’s with the recipients to determine the impact that receiving access to electricity for the first time ever has on their daily lives. According to the ISEP team “The goal of this project is to understand how the distribution of high-quality solar lanterns shapes household behavior in non-electrified habitations of rural India. Solar lanterns have long been identified as an economically viable and environmentally friendly alternative to kerosene lighting in areas with poor electrification. Yet, large-scale adoption of solar lanterns has faced a number of obstacles, one of these being consumer perceptions about the value and quality of the lanterns.”
“Many households in India, especially in rural areas, use kerosene for their lighting needs. They prefer to use kerosene despite it being identified as a health hazard and cleaner alternatives available in their locality. A key stumbling block to the use of solar lanterns is that households are hesitant to adopt a new technology when they are unsure of its value and quality. One way that households can reduce this uncertainty is to learn its usefulness through the actual use of the product. If households are given an opportunity to use a solar lantern, then they would gain familiarity with the product, make them more comfortable with its use, and be willing to substitute kerosene with these cleaner alternatives.”
We know that access to electricity is a necessity in the 21st century and we look forward to learning exactly how the villages we work with view the efficacy of our projects. By getting comprehensive and detailed feedback from the villagers we will be able to make adjustments to our implementation methods and procedures in order to maximize the beneficial effects of our projects. This first collaboration with ISEP will be followed by a gender study project with a focus on empowering women. Rural communities in India are typically patriarchal and we are interested in the effect that designating the women of the households as the primary owner and operators of the lights will have on household income, health, education and safety. The issue of energy access and adoption is a complicated one and the SVP ISEP partnership will help us ensure that we continue to develop solutions that have a real and meaningful impact.