Research Focus: how education, wealth, and other factors determine whether households in a struggling country use electricity for light and cooking

Dil Bahadur Rahut, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center CIMMYT, SEP, Mexico

The study, using statistical evidence from Bhutan, and aimed at Policymakers, International Development Experts and people from developing countries, expands on the concept of an energy ladder - a hypothesis developed by Leach in 1992 - used to describe the way in which households will move to more sophisticated fuels as their economic status (incomes) improves...

Title of Peer Reviewed and Accepted Research Paper


  • Dil Bahadur Rahut, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center CIMMYT, SEP, Mexico
  • Ali Akhter, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Pakistan
  • Jeetendra Aryal, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), India
  • Khondoker Mottaleb, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center CIMMYT, SEP, Mexico, Aryal

What are the key findings of your research (in brief)?

Use of electricity rather than other sources of energy for both lighting and cooking should be encouraged in developing countries, as this leads to improved health and less harm to the environment. Unsurprisingly, rural and remote households are disadvantaged in terms of access to electricity and are therefore less likely to use electricity for lighting and lighting and cooking.

The results of this study illustrate that educational attainment; wealth status; infrastructure; and ‘urban-versus-rural’ location of households are all important determinants to the take-up of electricity for lighting only, as well as electricity for both lighting and cooking. Families with a higher education have a higher probability of using electricity for lighting, and lighting and cooking concurrently. And wealthier households are more likely to use electricity for both lighting and cooking compared to low-income families.

In addition:

  • An analysis of gender discloses that families with a female figurehead, as well as households with a large number of females, are more likely to use clean sources of energy, in this case electricity.
  • Families with higher education and wealth and those living in urban areas are more likely to adopt electricity for lighting and cooking.

How will this make a difference to the implementation of sustainable energy?

This finding is of particular importance in developing countries where large sections of the population are dependent on biomass for cooking. The analysis shows that ensuring an adequate supply of electricity, enhancing education levels, and augmenting wealth or assets should be fundamental policy measures. This could be achieved by pursuing rapid economic growth accompanied by equitable income distribution.

Bilateral and multilateral donors (like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank), together with national governments, should invest simultaneously in infrastructures as well as education. Investment in education may result in rapid economic growth and broaden the opportunities to improve incomes. It also increases the purchasing power of families and makes the purchase of electricity and other clean energy affordable.

Accessing the full text version of the Paper
'Energy Consumption Transition through the Use of Electricity for Lighting and Cooking: Evidence from Bhutan' (Click here for full text access to the Paper, subscription or pay per view available).

About the Author
Dr. Dil Bahadur Rahut holds a PhD in Development Economics from  University of Bonn, and currently works at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) as Science Program Manager, Socioeconomics Program, CIMMYT. Prior to joining CIMMYT, Dil has worked as in the Department of Economics at the South Asian University, as well as holding previous positions at the Bank of Bhutan Limited; Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER); WorldFish Centre; Centre for Development Research (ZEF); and the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan. Dil’s prime research interests are Applied economic research, including households’ decision making under climate change and resource allocation.

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Geothermal  •  Green building  •  Other marine energy and hydropower  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wave and tidal energy  •  Wind power  •  World Future Energy Summit