Household Solar Adoption in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review

EfD Discussion Paper
1 January 2018

The astounding scope of the global energy poverty challenge has motivated many organizations to
promote solar energy for lighting, heating, and cooking needs in off-grid settings. However, poorly designed or executed projects have the potential to cause unnecessary harm in communities lacking access to reliable energy. We identify and analyze the enabling environment that drives or blocks the diffusion, dissemination, and adoption of solar products, home systems, lanterns, hot water heaters, and cooking products in low- and middleincome countries (LMICs). To address this question, we conducted a systematic review to examine which factors support or complicate household solar adoption. We identified 42 studies in 26 countries that describe the enabling environment: the constellation of financial, market, programmatic, and regulatory factors that lead to adoption of small-scale solar systems. At the household level, the cost of technology and quality of a product have the potential to greatly impact the success of a program. On a programmatic scale, customer support and ongoing maintenance have the potential to increase sustainable use of products. Finally, supportive government level policies and design standards can encourage the growth of high-quality products in regional markets. This complex and interconnected system can either drive increases in households transitioning from harmful fuel use to renewable energy or discourage communities from adopting the equipment under consideration. However, the small sample size and the glaring gaps in categories represented tell us that much more research is needed to fully understand this picture. The experiences documented in the literature describe complex programmatic, financial, and  regulatory challenges that must be addressed in order to provide the rural energy poor with services for lighting, heating, and cooking.


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Publication | 3 July 2018