Featured Resource – March 2018

MIT CITE, wPOWER and Solar Sister release “Reaching the last-mile: Women’s social and sustainable energy entrepreneurship” report

With the support of the US State Department’s wPOWER program, MIT’s Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation and Solar Sister release joint research today that examines last-mile customer preferences and provides important findings for all practitioners seeking to reach under-served communities.

“This research is really exciting for Solar Sister because of our drive and ongoing commitment to reach the last inch of the last mile with clean energy products and services. The findings help us to better understand what this unique segment of consumers cares about when purchasing solar lights. It also verifies that our locally-embedded entrepreneurship approach fits consumer demands and preferences.” – Abby Mackey, Impact Manager, Solar Sister.

In summer of 2017, MIT CITE conducted over 600 interviews in Tanzania with both Solar Sister customers and non-Solar Sister customers, resulting in the report, “Reaching the Last-Mile: Women’s Social and Sustainable Energy Entrepreneurship.”

CITE researchers, led by principle investigator Bishwapriya Sanyal, created a “last-mile index” to ascertain whether Solar Sister’s women-driven model reaches the most under-served communities. Taking into account poverty levels, access to grid and geographic remoteness, the index shows that most of Solar Sister’s sales are reaching last-mile communities, often where there are no other clean energy options.

The report also sheds light on customer preferences, with some surprising findings. Rather than payment options, last-mile customers are more concerned with the social aspects of a purchase, such as whether after-sales service is available locally and whether their salesperson is familiar and trusted.

Last-mile distribution is critical to reducing poverty and ensuring everyone has access to clean power. This study presents both a methodology for fellow practitioners to better evaluate the last-mile reach of current energy approaches and also empirical evidence on the relationship between gender and clean energy promotion in developing contexts.