Woman in sari sorting grain from husk with electric fan propeller standing on roof in Vashist, India

Project Details

Thematic Project
Efficient & Productive Use
Meredith Fowlie
University of California, Berkeley
Meredith Fowlie, University of California, Berkeley

Meredith Fowlie

Principal Investigator

Pairing super-efficient appliances with low-cost battery storage

Sustainable access to reliable energy services: What role for energy efficiency and battery storage?


Background, challenges and context

Limited access to energy services is broadly viewed as a hindrance to economic development.  Extensive global efforts are underway to improve access to energy, and electricity in particular. To date, these efforts have largely focused on the supply-side. But investments in generation and transmission infrastructure can fail to drive economic growth and development if complementary investments on the demand-side fail to materialize.

Past research has found that chronic load shedding and blackouts can suppress demand for electric appliances, thus constraining the economic development and productivity impacts of investments in electrification. Although detailed data on power supply reliability in developing economies is limited, available data suggest that quality of supply can be very poor, especially in low income areas. In India, for example, the Electricity Supply Monitoring Initiative (ESMI) has documented frequent supply interruptions in smaller cities and rural areas.  

In areas where electricity supply quality is poor, the deployment of super-efficient appliances paired with low-cost battery storage could significantly improve the reliability of energy services. Large-scale deployment could also mitigate problems associated with revenue shortfalls that can contribute to under-supply in these high-loss areas. However, on account of various market barriers and failures (e.g. subsidized electricity prices) targeted and well-crafted policy interventions will likely have a role to play in accelerating socially efficient investments.

Designing the technology configurations, procurement processes, financing terms, subsidy programs, and distribution strategies to support more efficient investments in efficiency, particularly among low income populations, will inevitably require some trial and error. Systematic experimentation in the early stages of implementation can play a critical role in identifying cost effective efficiency investments and informing large scale policy implementation. We are particularly interested in low income customer segments who have not traditionally been targeted by energy efficiency programs in India.


Research overview and objectives  

The research team aims to understand how super-efficient lighting, fans, and televisions (which are among the most sought-after appliances in the target population of low-income, grid-connected households) paired with low-cost lithium-ion battery storage can be designed and deployed to improve access to reliable energy services in areas hindered by an unreliable grid connection.

This demand-side approach to improving energy access builds on three important developments:

  • Technological advances in super-efficient appliances; the energy consumption of commonly used devices can be reduced by as much as 80%

  • The falling costs of battery storage; reports suggest that costs have decreased by more than 80% over the past decade

  • Technology policy innovation; the Indian government has significantly increased the adoption of energy efficient LED lighting through its UJALA bulk procurement programme, providing a foundation to accelerate the adoption of super-efficient appliances

The project comprises technology development (configurations of super-efficient appliances with and without storage solutions will be designed), field testing and a field experiment investigating demand for super-efficicent appliances with and without storage. This will be followed by an impact assessment – in particular, the team hopes to measure the effects of technology adoption on the reliability of energy services, electricity consumption patterns, and electricity bill payments.

 Although the research will be conducted in India, the challenges addressed manifest in many developing and emerging economies. The team aims to build a body of evidence on how super-efficient appliances combined with battery storage, together with evidence-based technology policies, can increase the level of reliable energy services and make significant progress towards meeting Sustainable Development Goal 7 – providing affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy access to all.


Local partners

Chetan Singh Solanki, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

Jayendran Venkateswaran, Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

Energy Efficiency Services Limited

Gram Power