Assessing Multidimensional Impacts of Sustainable Energy: Evidence from Solar Home Systems in Rural Bangladesh

Kurata, Masamitsu (1); Matsui, Noriatsu (2); Ikemoto, Yukio (3); Tsuboi, Hiromi (4) (2016). 'Assessing Multidimensional Impacts of Sustainable Energy: Evidence from Solar Home Systems in Rural Bangladesh' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract   This paper assesses the multidimensional impacts of solar home systems (SHS) on household income, consumption, education, health, and security in rural Bangladesh. In recent years, SHS has attracted worldwide attention since it can promote sustainable and renewable energy in developing countries without any large-scale infrastructure (Sustainable Energy for All ,2014; Tsuboi, 2015). It is likely that SHS will play an important role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7, namely, to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all,” by 2030.  SHS is expected to have various functional advantages: (1) consumption of traditional energy sources such as firewood and kerosene will be reduced; (2) income will be increased by extension of income-generating activities at home during night time; (3) educational attainment of children will be enhanced by extension of study time; (4) health conditions of household members will be improved by controlling indoor air pollution; and (5) security against fire, theft, and other criminal activities will be improved owing to the availability of bright light at night.   If these advantages prove to be effective, SHS can be regarded as an efficient solution to alleviate “multidimensional poverty” (MP), theoretically established by Alkire and Foster (2011), and which has been widely promoted by Human Development Reports since 2010. This is because SHS would not only fulfill the need for electricity, a component of MP itself, but because it would also contribute to other dimensions of education and health. An empirical research question here is whether, and to what extent, SHS really have such multidimensional impacts.   However, rigorous impact studies of SHS and related equipment are still limited, except for some papers, and the results of which are controversial. For example, Khandker et al. (2014) showed that SHS have positive impacts on income, consumption, and study time of children in Bangladesh—one of the developing countries where SHS have recently been rapidly promoted. Kudo et al. (2015) conducted an experimental study that comprised a randomized control trial of solar lanterns in river islands of northern Bangladesh. They found that the lanterns increased study time of children and decreased fuel consumption, but did not improve the health conditions of household members significantly.   In order to accumulate more evidence on the impacts of SHS, we conducted a survey during 2014 in the southern coastal area in Bangladesh (Barisal division), where the grid is not available and SHS have been rapidly introduced. In cooperation with Grameen Shakti, the largest provider of SHS in Bangladesh, households using SHS (i.e., the treatment group) were randomly sampled from the user list. For comparison, households not using SHS (i.e., the comparison group) who live near the treatment group were also randomly sampled. The final sample size was 477 households (245 and 232 for the treatment and comparison groups, respectively). In the survey, we asked respondents about the status of socio-economic indicators in both 2012 and 2013. As a method of analysis, we adopted a household fixed effects model to mitigate the problem of endogeneity by using two-period panel data.   As a result of the analysis, we found positive impacts on non-farm income and on consumption of food and clothing. Energy consumption, especially for kerosene, was significantly reduced as expected. In addition, for children in the treatment group aged 6–15 years, study time at home was extended. However, no significant effects on security (incidences of fire and theft) and health conditions (incidence of diseases with cough, headache, sore eyes, and skin burn) were confirmed. It was also confirmed that many SHS users are still utilizing kerosene lamps at home, which might explain the negligible impacts of SHS on health conditions.

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