Exploring peer-to-peer returns in off-grid renewable energy systems in rural India: An anthropological perspective on local energy sharing and trading

Abhigyan Singh, Alex T. Strating, N. A. Romero Herrera, Debotosh Mahato, David V. Keyson, Hylke W. van Dijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
77 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Within the areas of distributed, off-grid, and decentralized energy, there is a growing interest in local energy exchanges. A crucial component of an energy exchange is a return provided by an energy-receiver to an energy-giver for the energy provided. The existing energy literature on such returns is primarily limited to monetary returns and lacks a critical discussion on the different types of monetary and non-monetary returns possible and variation in people’ preferences for these. Based on an ethnographic ‘research intervention’ study conducted at two off-grid villages in rural India for 11 months, this article presents a sociocultural understanding of returns. The article presents a classification of returns consisting of three types, i.e., in-cash, in-kind and intangible, and proposes a conceptual model of ‘returns-continuum.’ The article showcases how people's preference for a type of return varies with the nature of their social relationships with each other and suggests that configuring a return is not merely an economic act but a complex sociocultural process. Finally, the article recommends to energy researchers and practitioners to enable diversity in returns, to acknowledge dynamics of social relations in returns, to interconnect energy economy with the local in-kind economy, and to engage with ethnographic approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-213
Number of pages20
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Volume46
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Anthropology of energy
  • Payments
  • Peer-to-peer energy trading
  • Rural electrification

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