The Behavioral Impact of Basic Energy Access: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Solar Lanterns in Rural India

Energy for Sustainable Development, 2020

49 Pages Posted: 11 May 2020

See all articles by Aseem Mahajan

Aseem Mahajan

Harvard University

Harish S.P.

College of William & Mary

Johannes Urpelainen

Johns Hopkins SAIS

Date Written: April 16, 2020


How beneficial is basic energy access – typically lighting and mobile charging – for rural households? Despite research on the economic impacts of basic energy access, few studies have investigated how it changes household behavior. Here we report results from a randomized controlled trial in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, which identifies the behavioral impacts of providing solar lanterns to households that normally rely on kerosene as their primary source of lighting. Eighty-nine of the 184 households participating in the study were given a free, high-quality solar lantern. Comparing changes in responses from the baseline questionnaire and an endline questionnaire administered six months later, we find that the lanterns reduced energy expenditures, improved lighting, improved satisfaction with lighting, more use of lighting for domestic activities (e.g., reading), and improved satisfaction with lighting for domestic activities. Overall, our results show that basic energy access can offer substantial benefits within the households, even if broader rural economic transformation is not plausible.

Keywords: rural electrification; India; economic development; lighting

Suggested Citation

Mahajan, Aseem and S.P., Harish and Urpelainen, Johannes, The Behavioral Impact of Basic Energy Access: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Solar Lanterns in Rural India (April 16, 2020). Energy for Sustainable Development, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Aseem Mahajan

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harish S.P.

College of William & Mary ( email )

Government Dept, College of William & Mary
Post Office Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23186
United States

Johannes Urpelainen (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins SAIS ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

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