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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.


On-Grid or Off-Grid Electricity? African Consumers Say…We Want Both

In the push for electricity access in the developing world, many policymakers are trying to figure out where on-grid or off-grid solutions make the most sense. My new paper asks 39,000 consumers in 12 African countries about their energy use and demand. The big takeaway: African consumers don’t view grid versus off-grid as a binary question.

Are India’s Government-subsidized Solar Shops Thriving or Barely Surviving?

We present results below from a survey of shop owners who are part of the Indian government’s Akshay Urja Solar Shops program. To our knowledge, the Akshay Urja program has not previously been evaluated. These results build on a case study featured in an upcoming CGD policy paper on clean energy access entitled, “Financing for Whom by Whom? Complexities of Advancing Energy Access in India.”

Do African Countries Consume Less (or More) Electricity than Their Income Levels Suggest?

 Are some countries too poor to consume a lot more energy? Or is income growth being held back by a lack of reliable and affordable electricity? While there is a strong relationship between energy consumption and income, the direction of causality is often far less clear. One way to estimate unmet demand may be to try to compare pairs of countries—e.g., how much additional energy does Kenya need to reach the level of Tunisia?

The Informal Sector: What Do We Know So Far?

The informal sector is a major source of economic activity and job opportunities in poor countries as well as emerging economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the informal sector is estimated to employ over 70 percent of the population. Why do businesses remain informal? What gains in productivity or profitability do they forego by as a result of that choice?

We Don’t Want Kinky Energy Either

Energy wonks will gather in New York City on April 3 for the third annual Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) forum to discuss progress on SDG7, whose aim is “By 2030, [to] ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.” The target is wonderful. The details are where this gets a little kinky.

Improving Energy Access: What the US Did in Eight Years, Kenya Has Done in Three

In the twelve months to June 2016, nearly 1.3 million Kenyan households were connected to the grid for the first time. This impressive feat pushed Kenya’s national electricity connectivity rate to 55 percent from just 27 percent in 2013, one of the fastest connection increases recorded in the region. These latest connections illustrate the Kenyan government’s commitment to a goal of achieving universal energy access by 2020.

To Scale or Not to Scale? Lessons from India’s Off-Grid Solar Technology Sector

Businesses working at the intersection of development and increasing shared value constantly find themselves navigating the question of whether or not they are having an impact. Impact, in this scenario, is defined by scale in number of customers (or beneficiaries) reached. Though the language may be fuzzy and the impact hard to measure, the question for any business working with those at the bottom of (or near the bottom of) the pyramid remains: to scale or not to scale?