Mobilizing Clean Energy: The Nexus of Micro-Energy and Mobile Phones Off the Grid in the Developing World

EPA Grant Number: FP917428
Title: Mobilizing Clean Energy: The Nexus of Micro-Energy and Mobile Phones Off the Grid in the Developing World
Investigators: Alstone, Peter Michael
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Environmental Science and Engineering


Micro-energy devices—off-grid energy appliances that integrate solar, LED and battery technology—have the potential to offer significant climate, economic justice and public health benefits to the 1.3 billion people who live without electricity access. However, there are key barriers related to product quality assurance, financing, maintenance and institutional support. The objective of this work is to identify novel ways that mobile telecommunications and banking can be leveraged to transform the diverse, rapidly changing market for micro-energy devices and unlock their potential.


Drawing on multiple disciplines, spanning technology, economics, public policy and communications, this study will test and refine new ways to engage with buyers and end-users, with an overall goal of finding new “killer apps” that will enable rapid transformation of the micro-energy market. The approach is to engage with institutions and end users to understand the dynamics of the market for micro-energy, and then design and pilot test mobile communications and banking interventions with a forward-looking perspective.

Expected Results:

This research will extend the knowledge base and toolset for researchers, manufacturers and institutions that need to engage with people in the developing world both before and after the sale of micro-energy systems in a market setting. If any of the particular ideas that are pilot tested— ranging from reducing transaction costs for micro financing to improving maintenance delivery—prove to be promising, it could have immediate impact. More broadly, this work will uncover new information about behavior, economics and institutional engagement in markets in the developing world.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

Micro-energy that is effective at eliminating fuel-based lighting can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote economic justice and improve public health. The current annual emissions burden for fuel-based lighting is up to 190 million tons of equivalent CO2. People who use fuel-based lighting typically spend 5 percent of their income and get paltry service levels. The public health burden includes significant acute impacts from respiratory infections, not to mention significant fire hazards.

Supplemental Keywords:

telecommunication, micro-energy, greenhouse gases (GHG)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final