Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics


Solar Power for Street Vendors? Problems with Centralized Charging Stations in Urban Markets


Johannes Urpelainen

Columbia University

Thursday,  15th January 2015 at 3:00 PM

Venue : Seminar Room (First Floor)
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

All are cordially invited

While energy poverty is a particularly large problem in rural areas, rapid urbanization in developing countries is also raising concerns about energy access in urban areas. How can policymakers improve energy access for the urban poor? We address this question by investigating the use of solar power for improved lighting for urban street vendors. We conduct a field study of the centralized charging station model in Patna, Bihar, India. A solar panel is installed in a marketplace and vendors can rent and charge lights for a daily fee. Our findings reveal many problems with the approach. Key issues include opposition by local strongmen who operate diesel generators, the difficulty of finding local entrepreneurs to operate the system, vendor misuse of the lights, and physical barriers such as land availability. These problems increase the cost of the approach to an unacceptable level. Policy recommendations include considering the sales of standalone devices and relying on the urban electricity grid for connections.

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