A capabilities-led approach to assessing technological solutions for a rural community

Xinfang Wang, Rosie Day, Dan Murrant, Antonio Diego Marín, David Castrejón Botello, Francisco López González, Jonathan Radcliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
138 Downloads (Pure)


To improve access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy in rural areas of the global south, off-grid systems using renewable generation and energy storage are often proposed. However, solution design is often technology-driven, with insufficient consideration of social and cultural contexts. This leads to a risk of unintended consequences and inappropriate systems that do not meet local needs. To address this problem, this paper describes the application of a capabilities-led approach to understanding a community’s multi-dimensional energy poverty and assessing their needs as they see them, in order to better design suitable technological interventions. Data were collected in Tlamacazapa, Mexico, through site visits and focus groups with men and women. These revealed the ways in which constrained energy services undermined essential capabilities, including relating to health, safety, relationships and earning a living, and highlighted the specific ways in which improved energy services, such as lighting, cooking and mechanical power could improve capabilities in the specific context of Tlamacazapa. Based on these findings, we propose some potential technological interventions to address these needs. The case study offers an illustration of an assessment method that could be deployed in a variety of contexts to inform the design of appropriate technological interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1398
Number of pages21
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by a Newton Fund Institutional Links grant, ID 332240317. The grant is funded by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and delivered by the British Council.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Capabilities approach
  • Energy poverty
  • Energy services
  • Energy storage
  • Mexico
  • Renewable energy
  • Solar
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Control and Optimization
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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