Director's Note 

Last week, we celebrated ISEP’s very first birthday with Power Africa’s Andrew Herscowitz and the Dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS, Vali Nasr. The event was appropriate, as energy access remains our most active research program.
This summer, we finished:
  • The second round of our comprehensive energy poverty survey, ACCESS, in India
  • Surveys of (i) rural electricity demand from 10,000 rural households and 2,000 enterprises in India and (i) public opinion about power theft in rural and urban Uttar Pradesh
  • Randomized controlled trials on (i) India’s flagship rural electrification scheme, Saubhagya, and (ii) the behavioral impacts of access to distributed solar power
We also secured support from (i) the Good Energies Foundation to develop mini-grid business models with Mlinda and (ii) the ClimateWorks Foundation to explore the political economy of energy and environment under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
We teamed up with the International Growth Centre to evaluate Myanmar’s off-grid energy market opportunity and partnered with the United Nations Sustainable Energy For All on global data delivery and analysis.
Besides energy access, we are working on sustainable energy, fuel subsidies, and air pollution. We are currently collecting and analyzing data on public awareness of air pollution in China, India, and Vietnam using a satellite data, air pollution measurements, and statistically representative surveys.
Our ongoing on global futures for coal-fired power generation and hydroelectric dams offers data-driven insights into the world’s ability to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. We are excited about our new work on fuel subsidy reform in Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East more broadly.
ISEP’s first year showed that there was a wide gap in rigorous but policy-relevant social science on sustainable energy in emerging economies. I am floored by the response from our partners, clients, and funders. We now have our hands full with a wide variety of research projects. By our second birthday, we expect to publish widely on these topics to inform key policy decisions.
If you are interested in working with us or making a gift, please write directly to me at  - thank you!


Johannes Urpelainen is the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He is the Founding Director of ISEP.
Researcher Spotlight

Shalu Agrawal

Tell us about yourself
Shalu Agrawal, Research Associate at ISEP, is a clean energy enthusiast, who is passionate about promoting renewable and clean energy solutions for sustainable development. She recently graduated in Economics and Policy of Energy and Environment from University College London. In her masters’ thesis, she conducted primary research in Ethiopia, investigating the barriers to diffusion of solar irrigation pumps and the role of innovative business models in technology diffusion. In her past role as a policy researcher, Shalu has worked on issues related to solar energy finance, deployment of utility-scale and off-grid solar solutions, fossil fuel subsidies reform and future energy scenarios. She also holds a BTech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Roorkee.

What exactly do you do at ISEP?
At ISEP, Shalu is working on an ambitious research project that aims to establish a baseline of rural electricity consumption and understand the drivers behind electricity adoption and use. The study is based on the survey of more than 10,000 households and 2,000 enterprises spread across 200 villages in four states of India. Apart from data analysis, her work involves a range of activities, from designing and testing the survey questionnaires to training the enumerators, monitoring and coordination with the survey team. 

Why did you join ISEP
As per Shalu, “Apart from the diversity and challenging nature of tasks, it was the opportunity to get hands-on training in rigorous research methods and advanced statistics that attracted me to ISEP. For me, getting abreast about latest research techniques, while being close to the field was a very attractive proposition. Besides, working with the multi-disciplinary team at ISEP adds perspective and depth to the work that one is doing. Finally, ISEP also offer an opportunity to build lasting relationships with the brightest and budding researchers, working on cutting edge research.”

Carlos Gould

Tell us a bit about yourself
I am currently at 3rd Year Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Environmental Health Science Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. I study the health effects of exposure to household air pollution resulting from the combustion of solid fuels and the potential for the scale-up of clean cooking fuels to obtain population health benefits. Recently, I have been studying clean cooking fuel use and exposure to air pollution in Ecuador, where there has been a long-standing LPG subsidy, working on the Ghana Randomized Air Pollution and Health Study (GRAPHS), and studying LPG use in India. I have benefitted fieldwork around the world, which has been formative and important foregrounding for my understanding of household decision-making and motivations for cooking patterns. When I'm not thinking about household energy, I like to do crosswords! 

What kind of research are you currently conducting for ISEP?
I serve as a household air pollution and clean cooking fuels expert for ISEP, analyzing household survey data to discuss determinants of LPG adoption and patterns of use in households and publishing results in journal articles. I also design cooking modules within ISEP's household energy access surveys, ensuring that our surveys contain cutting-edge questions that explore the role of clean cooking fuels and persistent solid fuel combustion. I also bring a public health perspective to ISEP's work around household energy. 

Why did I join ISEP?
I first collaborated with Dr. Johannes Urpelainen to study LPG adoption and use in the ACCESS database. Since then, I have joined other ISEP projects and activities. What I find very compelling about the group is that ISEP brings together academic experts from around the world to tackle some of the world's most pressing issues and provide practical, relevant policy advice. Furthermore, I think it is crucial that ISEP draws from numerous disciplines and relies heavily on international partners. 
Projects Announcements
ISEP Goes Indonesia: A Partnership with Electric Vine Industries on Clean Energy and Mobile Money
- September 27, 2018
ISEP Forms a Partnership with Mlinda on Solar Minigrid Development in Jharkhand, India
- September 10, 2018
ISEP to Study Energy and Environment in China’s Belt and Road Initiative
- September 22, 2018
ISEP Forms a Proud Partnership Agreement with SEforALL
- September 10, 2018
ISEP and CEEW complete survey on electricity theft in Uttar Pradesh
- September 6, 2018
Launch of ISEP's Work in Myanmar
- August 22, 2018
ISEP and SPI Finish a Large-Scale Survey to Understand the Indian Rural Electricity Customer
- August 22, 2018
CEEW and ISEP Finish Second Wave of India’s Most Comprehensive Energy Access Survey
- July 2, 2018
Publication Highlight

LPG as a Clean Cooking Fuel: Adoption, Use, and Impact in Rural India

Energy Policy 122: 395 – 408 (2018)

Carlos Gould,  Johannes Urpelainen

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is by far the most popular clean cooking fuel in rural India, but how rural households use it remains poorly understood. Using the 2014-2015 ACCESS survey with over 8,500 households from six energy-poor Indian states, our study reports on results from a comprehensive survey of LPG use in rural India using a holistic approach to understanding the integration of a clean cooking fuel into rural household’s energy mixes. There are three principal findings: (i) fuel costs are a critical obstacle to widespread adoption, (ii) fuel stacking is the prevailing norm as few households stop using firewood when adopting LPG, and (iii) both users and non-users have highly positive views of LPG as a convenient and clean cooking fuel. These findings show that expanding LPG use offers great promise in rural India, but affordability prevents a complete transition from traditional biomass to clean cooking fuels.​  
Refereed Articles and Books 


Aklin, M., and J. Urpelainen. "Renewables: The Politics of a Global Energy Transition." (2018), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Articles and Chapters

Agrawal, Shalu, and Abhishek Jain. "Sustainable deployment of solar irrigation pumps: Key determinants and strategies." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment: e325.

Aklin, Michaël, S. P. Harish, and Johannes Urpelainen. "A global analysis of progress in household electrification." Energy Policy 122 (2018): 421-428.

Gould, Carlos F., and Johannes Urpelainen. "LPG as a clean cooking fuel: Adoption, use, and impact in rural India." Energy Policy 122 (2018): 395-408.​

Jain, Abhishek, Shalu Agrawal, and Karthik Ganesan. "Lessons from the World’s Largest Subsidy Benefit Transfer Scheme." The Politics of Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Their Reform (2018): 212.

Numminen, Sini, Semee Yoon, Johannes Urpelainen, and Peter Lund. "An evaluation of dynamic electricity pricing for solar micro-grids in rural India." Energy Strategy Reviews 21 (2018): 130-136.

Urpelainen, Johannes. "Vouchers can create a thriving market for distributed power generation in developing countries." Energy Research & Social Science 46 (2018): 64-67.

In the Media 

Selected Events

Upcoming Events

October 19, 2018

November 7, 2018

Past Events

October 2, 2018

September 21, 2018

September 10, 2018

Policy Briefs

Click here to view more policy and country briefs
About ISEP 

Hosted at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP) uses social and behavioral science to design, test, and implement sustainable energy policies in emerging economies. ISEP identifies opportunities for policy reforms that allow emerging economies to achieve human development at minimal economic and environmental costs. The initiative pursues such opportunities both pro-actively, with continuous policy innovation and bold ideas, and by responding to policymakers’ demands and needs in sustained engagement and dialogue.

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