Evaluating energy alternatives in rural Nepal: Saving trees, saving time, or saving rupees?

David Garrett Hill, University of Pennsylvania


The capital and human resources available to invest in the development of energy systems in developing countries are scarce, while the potential economic, social, and environmental benefits are large. There is a need for systematic evaluations of energy development options, particularly in rural areas, so that available resources are used effectively. In general it is not sufficient to consider only one set of impacts, be they economic, environmental, or social. Incorporating multiple criteria in the decision and evaluation processes is a significant step towards the realization of sustainable energy futures. This paper uses a multiple criteria decision making framework to analyze a set of six energy alternatives for a village in rural Nepal. Data collected over a fifteen month field study period are used to construct and run a linear programming model which estimates the social, economic and environmental impacts for each of the alternatives. The alternatives considered are two forms of management reform, improved stoves, biogas plants, and the planting of private and public trees. A separate analysis evaluates the potential for a small hydro-electricity plant, focusing in particular on the economics of using high efficiency compact fluorescent lamps in the system. Extensive background on the social and economic patterns in the village are presented and inform the quantitative analyses. The results indicate strong potential for the promotion of private tree planting and the development of a hydro-electricity system. The electricity system would be sized so that it provides lighting of a greatly improved quality and quantity for a price close to current expenditures for kerosene the current primary lighting fuel. Electricity for cooking is not recommended as it would be financially unsustainable. Current levels of support for biogas and public trees are also drawn into question by the results. This case study demonstrates what is hypothesized to be a more general tendency for energy planning to become fixated on targets, rather than effective impacts, especially when large central agencies are responsible for implementation. The methods presented here contribute to the development of a more effective approach.

Subject Area

Geography|Social structure|Urban planning|Area planning & development|Energy

Recommended Citation

Hill, David Garrett, "Evaluating energy alternatives in rural Nepal: Saving trees, saving time, or saving rupees?" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9413848.