Electrification has long been a benchmark of development, yet roughly 1.5 billion people in developing countries still live without any form of electricity. Village-scale, clean energy microgrids could be transformative, but current efforts to bring rural communities on-grid have been plagued by rampant energy theft, unaffordable connection costs, intermittent supply, and poor maintenance. Successful deployment at scale will require new engineering and technology, as well as more sustainable financing and distribution mechanisms.
To address these challenges, researchers are implementing a randomized evaluation of an AC solar microgrid scaled for rural communities in India. We integrate pricing experiments with high frequency metering data to capture high quality information about energy consumption and demand. This information is then fed back to the technology developers to inform redesign of the infrastructure. This step has been missing from current rural electrification efforts, and it is at least partly responsible for the lack of profitability of power plants in many regions of the world.
In India, researchers are working with a private sector partner to deploy experimental microgrids in rural Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, using smart metering technology to evaluate patterns of energy use and theft. Power will be sold on a pay-as-you-go basis, with pricing varied randomly across households and time, to generate dynamic demand curves. Initial data from these deployments will inform design improvements as well as a large-scale impact evaluation.
Results and Policy Implications