Shivi field

When researchers asked questions about life before and after access to solar home systems, they were struck by the fact that none of the answers centered on the women’s own needs in their life.

by Shivi Chandna

In rural India, women in poor households spend a large part of their day performing basic tasks such as collecting fuel wood or kerosene, which keeps them away from employment or education opportunities and makes their lives more difficult. Access to electricity is therefore increasingly regarded as a means to improve their status in society. Although a large number of small-scale and community-based off-grid renewable energy projects are in place to provide access to electricity with a women-centric approach, research on the benefits to women has been largely anecdotal. A review of the evidence for the impact of rural electrification on women’s lives concluded that electricity access has a positive effect on women’s practical needs by reducing drudgery and providing better health, time-savings and income generation.

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Electricity meter

[ Image Credit: Niel Lall ]

The broad question looming over these recommendations is this: will this new intervention – which is essentially a negation of the previous one – bring about positive outcomes for the consumers?

by Paul Monroe

Ensuring sufficient competition in the energy market is a key role of the regulator. One of the most popular measures for measuring competition has been in the analysis of customers switching between tariff plans. Unfortunately, switching rates are comparatively low and the market remains dominated (85%) by the six largest energy companies. Many regulatory interventions have been made, but one of the most significant was a cap on the total number of tariff plans on offer by suppliers.

Earlier in 2016, this decision was reversed and the cap was eliminated. The primary reasoning was that the cap now inhibited competition because, alongside other measures, it prevented the creation of innovative offerings, like reward plans paired with other services, discounted “smart home” packages, and more.

The broad question looming over this decision is whether the cap removal will promote innovation or simply represent at return to the previous state of affairs. Furthermore, the implications for vulnerable customers – who benefit greatly from regular switching but may be dissuaded from doing so in this scenario – require exploration. This paper will detail the potential effects of this policy intervention in depth.

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by Victoria Plutshack

Smart technologies, which can communicate and share information, have been hailed as a panacea for a range of our energy problems. The possibilities for energy savings and greater energy efficiency are enormous. The first step in realizing the smart vision of the future is the humble smart meter, which is due to be universally available in British homes by 2020. However, the behavioural science behind the effects of an in-home energy meter is mixed. Pilot tests have returned a range of results, from energy savings to increased consumption and everything in between. Given that there is scientific uncertainty, how should policy makers respond? I argue that the Government must clearly prioritise its reasons for the adoption of smart meters in order to create meters that are most likely to produce a single desired result, instead of solving all the nation’s energy problems.

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by Ed Leon Klinger

Driverless cars present an unprecedented opportunity to transform the way we transport goods and people through cities and across countries, posing benefits to our collective safety, environment and economy. They also pose new risks; as cars become more connected, they become more vulnerable to malicious attacks by thieves and terrorists. This essay argues that the government should take active steps to position the UK at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology, establishing itself as a world-leader in this rapidly approaching disruptive innovation.

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by Hannah Smith

Limited water resources, weak states and ethnic tensions across Central Asia lead many analysts to believe that the region will bear witness to the world’s first war over water. Through drawing on fieldwork, this study takes the example of the geographically isolated village of Barak (a Kyrgyz exclave) to demonstrate how water resources are manipulated strategically at a local level. This has profound consequences for communities and presents clear violations of basic human rights. The internationally community must act at a micro level to ensure that water does not become another tool of war.

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