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Calabashes for kilowatt-hours: Rural energy and market failure

Listed author(s):
  • Howells, Mark I.
  • Jonsson, Sandra
  • Käck, Emilia
  • Lloyd, Philip
  • Bennett, Kevin
  • Leiman, Tony
  • Conradie, Beatrice

This paper describes how management and information failures can retard transitions from the traditional use of biomass fuel by low income rural consumers and micro-producers. In general, societies move away from traditional biomass use as economic development takes place. If one accepts the doctrine of revealed preference (built on the initial work of Samuelson, 1938), then these trends imply that such transitions provide net gains in utility. This paper shows how various "failures" entrench existing fuel use patterns--hindering the transition to new fuel use patterns. In order to qualitatively discuss how these transitions may take place, an indicative neo-classical description of consumer and producer behavior is used. Three types fuel-transition "driver" are identified. The effect of information and management failures on these drivers, and thus the energy transition, is discussed. Reference is made to a specific case study in which a partial transition from biomass occurred in response to an intervention to address an environmental management failure (the deforesting of a carbon sink.) It is concluded that interventions to encourage transitions to cleaner sustainable fuel use may need to recognize and address management and information failures in a systematic manner.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

Volume (Year): 38 (2010)
Issue (Month): 6 (June)
Pages: 2729-2738

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Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:38:y:2010:i:6:p:2729-2738
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  1. Richard H. Hosier & Mark A. Bernstein, 1992. "Woodfuel Use and Sustainable Development in Haiti," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 129-156.
  2. Dalia Marin & Daniel Kaufmann & Bogdan Gorochowskij, 2000. "Barter in Transition Economies: Competing Explanations Confront Ukranian Data," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 287, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  3. Bluffstone, Randall A., 1998. "Reducing degradation of forests in poor countries when permanent solutions elude us: what instruments do we really have?," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(03), pages 295-317, July.
  4. Dasgupta, Partha, 1996. "The economics of the environment," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(04), pages 387-428, October.
  5. Howells, M. I. & Alfstad, T. & Victor, D. G. & Goldstein, G. & Remme, U., 2005. "A model of household energy services in a low-income rural African village," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(14), pages 1833-1851, September.
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