Solar Transitions: Off-grid energy choices from a Kenya

Solar Transitions: Off-grid energy choices from a
household perspective – experiences from India and
Large developing economies: The rural-urban divide, air pollution
and climate policy, Oslo, 8th May 2013 (CICERO)
Tanja Winther, PhD Social anthropology/MSc Power engineering
The Solar Transitions Project (2009-13)
Village scale solar systems for development
Transfer of social and technological innovations between India and Kenya
Part 1 INDIA: Lessons learned
Part 2 KENYA: Action research
Funded by the Research Council of Norway
‘Are you really sure there will be a
copy machine?’
Sub-chief of Ikisaya, Kenya, February 2012
‘When I know what the President looks
like, I will feel as beeing part of Kenya’
Elderly, male participant during public meeting
in Ikisaya, 2011
General dilemmas, local electricity systems
From India to Kenya: lessons learned
The Ikisaya context and people’s priorities
Inclusion of women
Access achieved
Sustainable energy system
Positive social impact
Local electricity systems/local participation:
a dilemma
• Local identification of needs and goals
• Often mainly involves key people / leaders
Who is represented in village councils?
Who represent ‘the household’?
Who has ability to pay?
Criteria for selection of staff etc.
Uroa village, Zanzibar
The Sunderbans,
West Bengal
Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity + mini-grids
Participatory process
Flat tariff: 3-points (70W) or 5 points (120)
- better quality of light
- efficient time-use
- access to appliances
- mobile charging
- cheaper than kerosene
Those who received connection:
- live close to village markets
- could afford connection fee (12-32 USD)
- signed up early
Income vs. connection fee
The Sunderbans
Connection fee:
share of income
20 000
Day labourer
3 000
Cleaning worker
1 600
Women: limited power to decide on matters
related to electricity
Male dominated local administration
Ideology: Provider vs Housewife
Male ownership to land, houses and appliances
Generations/kinship: Marrying into husband’s family
 Effect: women less control over electricity than men
(e.g. limited access to mobile phones compared to men,
men decide where to put up the light?)
Sunderban homes, occurrence of light
points (n=106)
Bedroom/ store room /shrine
54 %
Cow shed
Living room / dining room
38 %
63 %
Veranda / outdoors 58 % 58%
Bathroom 1%
Signs of women’s empowerment,
the Sunderbans
• Low divorce rate; long term security
• Availability of mobiles constitutes a little ‘revolution’,
(cf. Tenhunen 2008 and Winther forthcoming)
Conclusion, the Sunderbans
Dense settlement pattern: mini-grids suited
Barrier: connection fee
Over-consumption, problems with battery replacement
Increasing differences between groups
Women had limited influence
Project outcomes and impact closely tided to existing ideologies
and practices (e.g. gender, generation, homework)
Existing social organisation + new technology
shaped the new solutions
Implications for the Kenyan pilot
Make electricity services as cheap as possible
Pay-per-service instead of fixed installations?
Financially sustainable system (operation/maint.)
Focus on trust and customer compliance
Include various groups and both genders in the
process of electrification and operation
• (limited project budget)
Ikisaya village, Kenya
Ikisaya context
Highly spread settlement pattern
Severe problems with drought
Lack of water
Agro-pastoralists (oxes, goats)
Many working corporations / groups
No health clinic (one private pharmacy)
Two primary schools
Three churches
12-15 small shops/kiosks
Common mode of transport: walking, donkeys
Girls/Women: risk of sexual violence outdoors at night time
Daily routines incl. current use of light and mobile phones
Methods for broad inclusion
Initial field visits
Village leaders
Survey mapping needs
Households (m&w)
Study productive uses of el
Households and groups (m&w)
Field visits: existing routines,
needs & challenges
Leaders, key people, meetings, focus groups,
elders’ group, single mothers, children
Mapping political situation
Key people in the distinct groups
Criteria for hiring staff
Motivation & experience
(Repeated visits, phone calls
Staff, board etc)
Goal: to obtain a nuanced picture of the
challenges, needs and desires perceived by
various groups
Including women in the planning, implementation
and operation
Research assistants (1 of 2)
Committee for hiring staff
Staff (1 of 4)
Group of executives
Board of the CBO (6 of 12)
Research group (5 of 12)
Political balance:
• Board: 2 rep. from 6 wards
Reported needs: many directed at meeting
the challenge of long distances
Water supply (pump)
Light for reading at school and at home
Light for comfortable living
Cooling capacity for storing medicine
Charging mobile phones
Copy machine in the village
Photo service in the village
PC at school: ‘computer literacy’
Watch the President on television: ‘be part of Kenya’
Broad access
The Ikisaya Energy Centre, March 2012
• Off-grid electricity may provide new energy choices
that are felt as deeply needed
• Context sensitive approaches are more likely to
produce sustainable energy systems and have a
positive social impact
• Unequal power relations may be compensated by
including various groups in the process/project
- and by continuously promoting gender balance
Winther, T. The impact of electricity. Development, desires and dilemmas. Berghahn Books,
Winther, T. The introduction of electricity in the Sunderban Islands: Conserving or transforming
gender relations? In K.B. Nielsen and A.K.Waldorp (eds), Transforming Gender in India.
Anthem Press (in progress).
Winther, T. Space, time and socio-material relationships: Moral aspects of the arrival of
electricity in rural Zanzibar. In S. Strauss, S. Rupp and T.Love (eds), Cultures of energy. Power,
practices, technologies. California: Left Coast Press, 2013.
Winther, T. Negotiating energy and gender: Ethnographic illustrations from Zanzibar and
Sweden. In K. Bjørkdahl and K. B. Nielsen (eds), Development and Environment. Practices,
theories, policies. Oslo: Akademika Publishing. 2012.
T. Winther. Electricity theft as a relational issue: A comparative look at Zanzibar, Tanzania, and
the Sunderban Islands, India. Energy for Sustainable Development, 2012, 16(1).
K. Ulsrud, T. Winther, D.Palit, H.Roracher and J.Sandgren. The Solar Transitions research on
solar mini-grids in India: Learning from local cases of innovative socio-technical systems”.
Energy for Sustainable Development, 2011, 15.