Delivered as part of the Energy-PIECES project, this report was developed during a secondment with Practical Action.

Authors: Stephanie A Hirmer and Rosie Robison.

Energy is a crucial element for development in almost every aspect of community life such as education, health, food, and security, and it can contribute to farming productivity, income generation, and the creation of networks that enable youth to work from their villages.  Despite this, around 1 billion people globally do not have access to sustainable energy sources, and 80% of those people live in rural areas across 20 countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  To decrease this energy access gap, and to improve rural livelihoods and increase economic opportunities in rural areas, Productive Uses of Energy (PUE) offer an untapped opportunity: examples of PUE include irrigation and post-harvest processing.

Despite the benefits of PUE, they are often not considered in the planning off-grid rural electrification developments. This may be partially attributed to a lack of capital; risky framework conditions; and a lack of clear policy guidelines available on the subject. The latter of which was the focus of this research project.

In this report, we draw on Social Sciences & Humanities (SSH) literature to understand the role of energy access for the marginalised sectors (energy justice, energy poverty); stakeholder decision-making sectors (User- Perceived Values, risk perception); and the influence of non-energy sectors (Social Practice Theories, ‘non-energy’ energy policy) with the aim to uncover insights and tools to support policy options for enhancing PUE.

From the review of the literature and consultation with experts, we find that SSH literature can offer an untapped opportunity in supporting policy decisions to enhancing PUE. More specifically, we identify the following policy options:

  • Actively integrate ‘non-energy’ energy policy (i.e. from other ministries) and energy policy.
  • Establish cross-departmental working groups that are not coordinated by a specific sector.
  • Understand end-user decision-making to enable PUE which meet local needs.
  • Ascertain how PUE is not about energy access but about community and market development.
  • Map risks and develop risk mitigation strategies.