Towards systems-oriented energy solutions

A multilevel analysis of a low-income energy efficiency program in Brazil

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There is a consensus among scholars and practitioners that energy solutions, such as electricity services and related products and systems, are paramount to the ability of nations to overcome environmental and social issues. As a result, policymakers and problem solvers in emerging economies have shown a keen interest in the transition to sustainable energy systems. Nevertheless, the design of sustainable energy solutions in low-income markets presents many challenges, such as those related to limited financial resources and poor infrastructure. In lowincome markets, the adoption of a systems-oriented approach to product-service combinations may represent a promising alternative to traditional design approaches and result in a more socially and environmentally sound path to economic development. Building on design theory grounded in systems theory, this paper analyzes multiple aggregation levels of the sociotechnical system of a low-income energy efficiency program in Brazil. In this study, the authors examined findings from the literature, carried out field observations, and had discussions with practitioners and experts. The study identifies constraints that hinder energy solutions that could achieve higher levels of socioeconomic and environmental benefits in low-income energy markets. Based on the findings, the paper provides insights into sustainable energy transitions and concludes that low-income energy efficiency programs can be improved through design-led policy and stakeholder collaboration.