Technologies and capability approach: a framework for solar energy development projects

Gonzalez-Herrera, Antonio; Lopez-Toro, Alberto (2014). 'Technologies and capability approach: a framework for solar energy development projects' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

The implementation of solar energy development projects in isolated rural communities involves a large technological change for the beneficiaries. Despite these development projects imply direct basic need coverage (in terms of energy access and its benefit) its success is dependent on many aspect difficult to understand. Experience shows that the same technology may be successful or not depending on many external factors.
These technological projects are commonly formulated based on two simple accepted premises. The first one relies on the general assumption that beneficiaries would accept and be more involved in a project in direct relation to their human needs satisfaction that the project provides. The second one, particular for this kind of project, is that simple technology is better understood and so accepted, maintained and properly used by the beneficiaries, in the wake of the intermediate technology movement.
Reality shows that both assumptions are not always observed in these projects. Surprisingly, some solar energy solution with better link with human need satisfaction are not well accepted while other -with higher complexity- are used and adapted for long time use.
A different framework must be used to explain short and long term behavior of these projects and capability approach and the conversion factor concept provide a good framework to understand the process involving high tech in development projects
This work intends to apply the well-known capability approach as a theoretical framework to identify the conversion factors through which an energy solar project -considered as a good- promotes capabilities and so, achieved functioning.
The theoretical consideration is based on field notes about solar energy projects in Bolivia. Particularly a set of development projects performed in the 90's decade and sponsored by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) have been the object of short and long-term analysis. They were focused on rural electrification on Bolivian Altiplano (high plateau) and several solar energy solutions have been implemented at different stages of the program.
They show how the same technology achieves positive or negative capacity developments depending on the context, and that we could identify the conversion factors that promote a successful project. In this sense a link could be establish among this Capability Approach framework and the commonly used logical framework approach, among conversion factor and assumptions (external factor) at certain levels.

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