Usmani, F., Steele, J., & Jeuland, M. (2017). Can economic incentives enhance adoption and use of a household energy technology? Evidence from a pilot study in Cambodia. Environmental Research Letters, 12(3), 035009.
While much work has examined approaches to increase uptake of a variety of household environmental, health and energy technologies, researchers and policymakers alike have struggled to ensure long-term use. Drawing on a pilot-scale experiment conducted in rural Cambodia, this study evaluates whether economic incentives enhance continued use of—and fuel savings from—improved cookstoves (ICS). Capital-cost subsidies that have been traditionally employed to enhance ICS adoption were augmented with rebates linked to stated and objectively measured use in order to investigate impacts on both initial and sustained adoption in the treatment group. Results show that households do respond to these rebates by adopting the intervention ICS at significantly higher rates, and by using it more frequently and for longer periods. Consistent with these stove-use patterns, solid-fuel use and time spent collecting or preparing fuels also decline. However, this effect appears to diminish over time. Thus, while economic inducements may significantly increase adoption and use of new environmental health technologies, corresponding reductions in environmental or livelihood burdens are not guaranteed. Additional research on the design and implementation of incentive-based interventions targeting households directly—such as carbon financing or other forms of results-based financing (RBF) for improved cookstoves—therefore seems warranted prior to wider implementation of such solutions.