The lack of household electricity is an obstacle to socio-economic development for over a billion people. They rely on costly, unhealthy, and hazardous alternatives such as kerosene fuel for basic household lighting. Generating few greenhouse gas emissions, off-grid solar power now offers an affordable and clean solution to household electrification in rural areas. This presentation summarizes India's electrification challenge and presents results from a field experiment with off-grid solar power in rural India. Although access to basic household electricity through off-grid solar power clearly reduces fuel expenditures and improves domestic lighting, the broader benefits appear to be limited. For Indian policymakers, the results offer new insights into the role of off-grid solar power in broader energy policy for sustainable development.
Johannes Urpelainen (PhD, University of Michigan, 2009) is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His research focuses on international cooperation, environmental politics, and energy policy. His first book, Cutting the Gordian Knot of Economic Reform (Oxford University Press), draws on quantitative tests and extensive case studies to show that leaders in developing countries have used preferential trading agreements with the European Union and the United States to secure domestic political support and enhance the implementation of initially controversial reforms. The results from the book have been featured and used by various research and policy organizations, including the United Nations. The author of more than a hundred refereed articles, Professor Urpelainen's research has been widely published in leading social science journals, such as The American Journal of Political Science, International Organization, and The Journal of Politics. Much of Professor Urpelainen's current research focuses on finding practical solutions to the political problems surrounding sustainable development in emerging economies. These projects have brought him to a number of countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In his spare time, Professor Urpelainen loves to read biographies, improve his Hindi, and meditate.