The talk assesses the socio-economic effects of solar microgrids. The lack of access to electricity is a major obstacle to the socio-economic development of over a billion people. Off-grid solar technologies hold promise as an affordable and clean solution to satisfy basic electricity needs. We conducted a randomized field experiment in India to estimate the causal effect of off-grid solar power on electricity access and broader socio-economic development of 1,281 rural households. Within a year, electrification rates in the treatment group increased by 29-36 percentage points. Daily hours of access to electricity increased only by 0.99-1.42 hours, though the confidence intervals are wide. Kerosene expenditure on the black market decreased by 47-49 rupees/month. Despite these strong electrification and expenditure effects, we found no systematic evidence for changes in savings, spending, business creation, time spent working or studying, or other broader indicators of socio-economic development.
Johannes Urpelainen (PhD, University of Michigan, 2009) is 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.