One of the most exciting and enjoyable parts of my quest for sustainable solutions to the problem of energy poverty is that I get to visit India twice a year. Tomorrow’s the great day: I’ll be flying to Delhi and then Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. On a 0-100 scale, my excitement score is 999.

This visit has three legs. The first one, in Uttar Pradesh, has two primary goals. For one, we pilot a major survey of rural and urban public opinion on power sector reform — a huge challenge for Uttar Pradesh, where electric utilities are deep in debt and their revenue is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of generation, transmission, and distribution. Our survey covers both the rural and the urban population, is statistically representative of the state, and will produce the most comprehensive database on public opinion about India’s greatest energy challenge.

Another pilot in Uttar Pradesh focuses on ways to improve rural electrification rates. We work with the electricity distribution companies and state government to help people connect their homes to the national electric grid. Besides an innovative intervention, a really exciting component of this project is how positive the state government’s response has been. It’s incredibly motivating to do research that really interests the authorities with the ability to change policy and shape outcomes on the ground, big time.

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January 2017. Productive discussions with the field team and the electricity station manager near Lucknow on ways to increase household electrification rates within villages.

After a week in Uttar Pradesh, I’ll head to Madhya Pradesh to develop measurement tools for a project on deforestation and migration. In a collaboration with ecological scientists and remote sensing specialists, our team examines how rural-urban migration patterns shape land use and forest degradation rates. I’m very excited about the explosion of rigorous interdisciplinary research, and this project scores high on that front – we bring together latest advances from multiple natural and social sciences to address the problem of deforestation.

After all this fieldwork, which will be hot and chaotic, I’ll head to Delhi for a series of seminars, meetings, and negotiations. I’m hoping to deepen my collaborations with some of the best Indian researchers and change agents, so I’ll dedicate a week to planning the coming years.

The last weekend I’ll spend in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan – just for fun and excitement. That’s where my Hindi teacher lives, so perhaps I’ll be blessed with a chance to meet this brilliant young man.

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January 2017. Field team and a Boond repesentative with a solar panel powering dozens of households through a solar microgrid.

 

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