Why do low-income urban dwellers reject energy technologies? Exploring the socio-cultural acceptance of solar adoption in Mumbai and Cape Town

Anika Nasra Haque, Charlotte Lemanski, Jiska de Groot

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In the global context of reducing carbon emissions and shifting towards sustainable modes of urban infrastructure,
strategies that provide decentralized access to renewable energy technologies for the urban poor are
increasingly promoted. However, while innovative energy technologies are introduced in order to support global
targets for sustainability and service-delivery while also directly benefiting low-income households (e.g. by
reducing the monetary costs of energy), there is widespread evidence that low-income urban dwellers do not
always readily accept these technologies. Typically, the urban poor are blamed for failing to adopt new technologies,
with little consideration for underlying socio-cultural causes. Using examples drawn from qualitative
research in low-income settlements in Mumbai and Cape Town, this paper demonstrates the role of socio-cultural
attitudes and practices in affecting social acceptance of domestic solar energy interventions. Focusing specifically
on perceptions of normality and practices of social capital, both of which are connected to collective social influence,
the paper reveals how these concepts affect the socio-cultural acceptance of new energy technologies
amongst low-income urban dwellers in the global South. Furthermore, we argue that adopting a socio-cultural
perspective is a crucial, but often overlooked, aspect of scholarly and policy analyses of, and strategies for,
energy transitions in the global South.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101954
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date9 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

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