Approximately 40% of the world’s population lives in energy poverty, lacking basic clean energy to prepare their food, heat water for washing, and provide light in their homes. Access to improved energy services can help to alleviate this poverty and result in significant improvements to health and livelihoods, yet past strategies for meeting the needs of this large and diverse population have often been top-down and focused on single intervention or solution, leading to limited success. Using a systems-based approach to examine residential thermal energy needs, this paper explores five intervention strategies to provide energy services for a remote off-grid village in Mali. The five intervention strategies are (1) general improved biomass cookstoves, (2) advanced biomass cookstoves, (3) communal biomass cookstoves, (4) LPG cookstoves, and (5) solar water heaters. Using a probabilistic multi-objective model that includes technical, environmental, economic, and social objectives, the potential net improvements, critical factors, and sensitivities are investigated. The results show that the factors with the most impact on the outcome of an intervention include the rate of user adoption, value of time, and biomass harvest renewability; in contrast, parameters such as cookstove emission factors have less impact on the outcome. This suggests that the focus of village energy research and development should shift to the design of technologies that have high user adoption rates. That is, the results of this study support the hypothesis that the most effective village energy strategy is one that reinforces the natural user-driven process to move toward efficient and convenient energy services.

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