Electricity for the Urban Poor

Electricity for the Urban Poor
Authors (non HEDON members)
K.Krishna Prasad
The main reason for people being without electricity in rural and urban areas is rooted in the same problem; simply stated, they are poor. Broadly speaking, in India, 75% or more villages are electrified, but only 30% or less of rural homes have electric lights. As a rule every urban area is electrified, but roughly speaking about 30% of homes, primarily the socalled slum dwellings, have no electric lights. In urban areas one is reminded of the lament of the poet Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner: ‘Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.’

Kerosene, sold in small amounts is, in some ways, is a blessing in disguise. If people do not buy, they will not have light. With electrification, there is really a problem of collection of bills from electricity customers; cutting electricity for the individual defaulter is tricky. It can be done, but the cost of doing it may well be higher than what the individual family owes.

But we will look at the problem from another angle. It does not require much fancy calculation to establish that the electricity is cheaper than kerosene per lumen of light apart from its comfort and cleanliness. Yet people have not opted for electric lights. The big question is: WHY?
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Title in French
Electricité pour les populations urbaines défavorisées
Abstract in French
La pauvreté est la raison principale explicative de l’absence d’électricité. Dans ce cas, pourquoi les populations pauvres urbaines n’optent pas pour l’électricité qui revient moins chere par unité de lumen que les lampes à kérosène. Cet artcle propose, pour la fourniture d’électricité, la création de petites compagnies d’électricité qui agiraient comme intermédiaires entre les ménages pauvres et les grandes compagnies d’électricité. Le principal problème est que cette méthode n'est pas efficace pour cette population.

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  • A practitioner's journal on household energy, stoves and poverty reduction.

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