The expansion of renewable energy technologies and their impact on household energy portfolios and sustainable development: A study of Nepal, by Hope Farrior Thompson
Thompson, Hope Farrior. 2017. The expansion of renewable energy technologies and their impact on household energy portfolios and sustainable development: A study of Nepal. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Encouraging households to switch from traditional fuels to cleaner, modern fuels (e.g.; electricity, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), biogas) is a widespread policy focus due to its expected benefits for health and the environment. As one of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is recognized that access to these energy sources is necessary to achieve economic development. This dissertation studies the expansion of renewable energy technologies in Nepal to draw conclusions about how increased access both influences household fuel portfolios and impacts economic and environmental outcomes. Chapter One examines household fuel behavior and factors influencing fuel adoption and use. Despite recent, widespread adoption of modern fuels, the dependence on traditional fuels such as wood remains high. This suggests that in the case of Nepal, increasing access to modern fuels may not have all of the household and environmental benefits expected from reduced reliance on traditional fuels. Chapter Two employs quasi-experimental techniques to measure the effects of biogas adoption on household labor allocation and local forest cover. Biogas leads to significant increases in time devoted to education, as well as other region- and sex-specific impacts. We do not detect robust impacts on local forest cover overall, but do find evidence of positive impacts when biogas is paired with forest protection policies. Chapter Three uses two instrumental variables to causally identify the impacts of grid and off-grid electricity expansion to previously underserved areas, comparing their impacts on household labor allocation. We find that households electrified by the grid shift their labor in different ways and in larger magnitudes than households electrified by off-grid, micro-hydro plants. Overall, results suggest that increased access to modern energy can improve socioeconomic and environmental outcomes, particularly in combination with complementary opportunities or policies.