to climb or not to climb? investigating energy use behaviour among solar home system adopters through energy ladder and social practice lens
Solar Home Systems (SHSs) and other off-grid solutions have shown promise in addressing the energy access gap for those with no or unreliable grid services. With that promise comes the expectation to boost socio-economic well-being of newly-connected households, who will continue climbing up the energy ladder. Despite the growing appreciation for the need to go beyond the techno-economics of energy access, and the recognition of the value of socio-technical systems perspective, the wider sociology of energy consumption and behaviour among adopters of off-grid solar solutions has been poorly explored. In this paper, we apply the Social Practice Theory (SPT) and the energy and solar energy ladder framework to analyse energy consumption and the changing social practices of SHSs users in Rwanda. We find that social practices change dynamically and depend on available appliances, whereas energy consumption follows a complex path but does not increase in a linear manner with time or more appliances. Insights can prove useful for public and private agencies working on off-grid electrification, offering a new perspective on the energy and solar energy ladder concepts while also showing the importance of social aspects of energy access even at relatively low levels of provision currently offered by SHSs.
This case study intends to show how Internet of Things (IoT) technology can be used to tackle development challenges by using the case study of BBOXX- a Solar Home Systems provider operating in South-Western Kenya and across Rwanda, and its SMART Solar platform applied to nearly 20,000 currently active systems. It aims to highlight the benefits of such technology to its users and how it can be utilised to create scalable business models for energy access through improved customer understanding. However, it also shows the difficulties in designing, developing and deploying appropriate technologies in an affordable and impactful way. Similar applications in the water sector are briefly looked at to further explore the potential and the challenges of IoT technologies in driving social and economic development. The case study raises ethical questions about the storage, collection and sharing of data and explores whether the data protection models prevalent in the developed world are applicable in a development context. It offers ideas for future research and policy recommendations, pointing to the need of including financial, socio-economic and ethical considerations in the processes of innovative solutions development.
Energy access is typically viewed as a problem for rural areas, but people living in urban settings also face energy challenges that have not received sufficient attention. A revised agenda in research and practice that puts the user and local planning complexities centre stage is needed to change the way we look at energy access in urban areas, to understand the implications of the concentration of vulnerable people in slums and to identify opportunities for planned management and innovation that can deliver urban energy transitions while leaving no one behind. Here, we propose a research agenda focused on three key issues: understanding the needs of urban energy users; enabling the use of context-specific, disaggregated data; and engaging with effective modes of energy and urban governance. This agenda requires interdisciplinary scholarship across the social and physical sciences to support local action and deliver large-scale, inclusive transformations.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—including 17 interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets—is a global plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. SDG7 calls for action to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Here we characterize synergies and trade-offs between efforts to achieve SDG7 and delivery of the 2030 Agenda as a whole. We identify 113 targets requiring actions to change energy systems, and published evidence of relationships between 143 targets (143 synergies, 65 trade-offs) and efforts to achieve SDG7. Synergies and trade-offs exist in three key domains, where decisions about SDG7 affect humanity’s ability to: realize aspirations of greater welfare and well-being; build physical and social infrastructures for sustainable development; and achieve sustainable management of the natural environment. There is an urgent need to better organize, connect and extend this evidence, to help all actors work together to achieve sustainable development.