A pinboard by
Anish Paul Antony

Postdoctoral Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Support the development of off-grid energy access programs in the developing world

According to a recent UN study approximately 2.1 billion people worldwide have unreliable or zero access to electricity. In a number of communities, access to modern energy services like affordable, cleaner and dependable heating, cooking, and lighting appear decades away. Given this background, the Off-Grid Energy Group at MIT’s D-Lab focuses on providing organizations based in these communities with the resources they need to design and implement programs that increase energy access in the communities they serve. The goal through this session is (1) to demonstrate our modular location agnostic energy needs assessment and then (2) to empower attendees with the tools and skills required to accomplish real time analysis of qualitative and quantitative data thus aiding in appropriate energy project generation. Most approaches to evaluation in the energy sector in developing countries occur once a particular intervention is implemented. This is a very top-down approach and may result in technology dis-adoption due to lack of finance, lack of proper maintenance and complications associated with behavior change within a community. D-Lab’s off-grid energy group believes in a more bottom-up process where working with local community based organizations an energy needs assessment is first conducted to identify the target community’s energy needs, expenditures and affordability. The assessment focuses on gathering information in the following areas:

  1. Current energy access and expenditures
  2. Aspirational energy needs
  3. Existing supply chain
  4. Community institutions and stakeholders (private sector, government, NGO) Once the assessment is completed, collaborating with the community project ideas are generated that will hopefully result in energy access programs that have greater community buy-in and are affordable thus ensuring the projects long terms sustainability.

Implications of this work Through project examples we hope to demonstrate to an audience that conducting a needs assessment first before implementing an energy solution may result in greater project success. Ideally, other practitioners in this space might want to follow a similar methodology in their work.