IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Off-grid energy services for the poor: Introducing LED lighting in the Millennium Villages Project in Malawi


  • Adkins, Edwin
  • Eapen, Sandy
  • Kaluwile, Flora
  • Nair, Gautam
  • Modi, Vijay


Lanterns that use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) powered by batteries, which are in turn charged by grid electricity or small solar panels, have emerged as a cost-competitive alternative to kerosene and other fuel-based lighting technologies, offering brighter light for longer duration at equal or lower cost over time. This paper presents lessons learned from the introduction of solar LED lanterns in rural Malawi. We discuss a market-based program using new and existing local commercial structures such as vendors and cooperatives to sell lanterns to village households without subsidy. The paper addresses issues of enterprise development, community interactions, and survey data on lighting use and expenditure patterns before and after LED lantern introduction. Households that purchased a lantern reported high levels of satisfaction with the LED lanterns as well as savings in annual kerosene expenditure comparable to the price of the lantern. These households also reported monthly incomes comparable to the price of the LED lanterns whereas non-adopters surveyed reported monthly incomes about half this level, suggesting a need for financing options to maximize adoption among poorer populations in rural areas. These results suggest that similar market based models of LED lighting technology dissemination have the potential to be replicated and scaled up in other off-grid regions in developing countries. However, viability of local cooperatives and supply chains for lantern products over the medium-to-long term remain to be assessed.

Suggested Citation

  • Adkins, Edwin & Eapen, Sandy & Kaluwile, Flora & Nair, Gautam & Modi, Vijay, 2010. "Off-grid energy services for the poor: Introducing LED lighting in the Millennium Villages Project in Malawi," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 1087-1097, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:38:y:2010:i:2:p:1087-1097

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pedro Sanchez & Glenn Denning & Generose Nziguheba, 2009. "The African Green Revolution moves forward," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 1(1), pages 37-44, February.
    2. Feder, Gershon & Just, Richard E & Zilberman, David, 1985. "Adoption of Agricultural Innovations in Developing Countries: A Survey," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 255-298, January.
    3. Robert Cull & Asli Demirgüç-Kunt & Jonathan Morduch, 2009. "Microfinance Meets the Market," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 167-192, Winter.
    4. Acker, Richard H & Kammen, Daniel M, 1996. "The quiet (energy) revolution : Analysing the dissemination of photovoltaic power systems in Kenya," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 81-111, January.
    5. Rao, P. Sharath Chandra & Miller, Jeffrey B. & Wang, Young Doo & Byrne, John B., 2009. "Energy-microfinance intervention for below poverty line households in India," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 1694-1712, May.
    6. Balint, Peter J., 2006. "Bringing solar home systems to rural El Salvador: lessons for small NGOs," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(6), pages 721-729, April.
    7. Wamukonya, Njeri, 2007. "Solar home system electrification as a viable technology option for Africa's development," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 6-14, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Scott, Inara, 2017. "A business model for success: Enterprises serving the base of the pyramid with off-grid solar lighting," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 50-55.
    2. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Ryan, Sarah E., 2016. "The geography of energy and education: Leaders, laggards, and lessons for achieving primary and secondary school electrification," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 107-123.
    3. Chirambo, Dumisani, 2016. "Addressing the renewable energy financing gap in Africa to promote universal energy access: Integrated renewable energy financing in Malawi," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 793-803.
    4. Elizabeth Baldwin & Jennifer N. Brass & Sanya Carley & Lauren M. MacLean, 2015. "Electrification and rural development: issues of scale in distributed generation," Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(2), pages 196-211, March.
    5. Hong, George William & Abe, Naoya, 2012. "Modeling and optimizing a sub-centralized LED lamps provision system for rural communities," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 16(7), pages 4616-4628.
    6. Mandelli, Stefano & Barbieri, Jacopo & Mereu, Riccardo & Colombo, Emanuela, 2016. "Off-grid systems for rural electrification in developing countries: Definitions, classification and a comprehensive literature review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 1621-1646.
    7. McHenry, Mark P. & Doepel, David, 2015. "The ‘low power’ revolution: Rural off-grid consumer technologies and portable micropower systems in non-industrialised regions," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 679-684.
    8. McHenry, M.P. & Doepel, D. & Onyango, B.O. & Opara, U.L., 2014. "Small-scale portable photovoltaic-battery-LED systems with submersible LED units to replace kerosene-based artisanal fishing lamps for Sub-Saharan African lakes," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 276-284.
    9. Harish, Santosh M. & Iychettira, Kaveri K. & Raghavan, Shuba V. & Kandlikar, Milind, 2013. "Adoption of solar home lighting systems in India: What might we learn from Karnataka?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 697-706.
    10. Wong, Sam, 2012. "Overcoming obstacles against effective solar lighting interventions in South Asia," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 110-120.
    11. repec:eee:enepol:v:108:y:2017:i:c:p:55-69 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Alem, Yonas & Hassen, Sied & Kohlin, Gunnar, 2013. "The Dynamics of Electric Cookstove Adoption: Panel Data Evidence from Ethiopia," Discussion Papers dp-13-03-efd, Resources For the Future.
    13. Stefan Bouzarovski & Saska Petrova & Sergio Tirado-Herrero, 2014. "From Fuel Poverty to Energy Vulnerability: The Importance of Services, Needs and Practices," SPRU Working Paper Series 2014-25, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.

    More about this item


    Solar Lighting Development;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:38:y:2010:i:2:p:1087-1097. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.