Electrification in rural Mexico

A Product-Service system to alleviate energy poverty

Electrification can have a major impact on the lives of those enduring energy poverty. A solar home system offers a sustainable and affordable electricity source for households in Mexican rural areas that are not connected to an electricity grid. Iluméxico, a social enterprise based in Mexico City, wishes to expand its current product portfolio beyond solar home systems.

In this graduation thesis a process is developed to guide Iluméxico’s portfolio expansion. An analysis of the company and the context it operates in shows an opportunity for new solar products that address the challenges of affordability and payback. Additional literature research indicates that the use of product-service design and sustainability evaluation methods in electrification projects can result in more sustainable projects, with a larger contribution to the alleviation of energy poverty.

A structure for a new product portfolio is presented using a framework based on the theoretical assumption that rural households can be placed on an electrification ladder. An evaluation tool ensures that products will only be added to the new product portfolio when they offer sustainable solutions. The proposal framework has a focus on products that are complementary to solar home systems, aiming to increase the overall revenue stream for Iluméxico as well as to increase the positive impact of solar electricity on daily lives.

Click here to download the full thesis.

After publication of this thesis, I was approached to co-author a paper on this case study with Ellen Morris (Columbia University) for a joint publication of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). That paper can be found here.