Targeted poverty alleviation through photovoltaic-based intervention: Rhetoric and reality in Qinghai, China

Chuan Liao, Ding Fei, Qingxu Huang, Lu Jiang, Peijun Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


In 2014, China initiated a nationwide poverty reduction campaign through deploying photovoltaic (PV) systems in its vast rural areas, which aims to support over 2 million households. Despite the significant socioeconomic benefits anticipated by policy-makers, it remains unclear regarding the challenges of implementing such an ambitious program in remote rural areas and its effect on poverty reduction. Focusing on Qinghai, a province that serves as the testbed for solar energy development in China but suffers chronic poverty, we aim to assess implementation status of the program, and examine whether and how solar energy-based development affects rural household well-being and generates socioeconomic spillovers. Using data from multiple sources, including household survey, interviews, policy documents, and large-scale socioeconomic covariates, as well as advanced statistical and spatial analyses, we find there have been substantial adjustments to the plan of building small-scale PV stations across poor villages throughout Qinghai. While total installation capacity was met, the 97 planned PV stations in 39 counties were aggregated into 24 medium- to large-scale PV farms in 27 counties. We also find substantial challenges to precisely target the poor, improve their income, facilitate a transition in household use of energy, and enhance local capacity for economic development. Future PV-based intervention programs need to sufficiently consider local contexts and demands, and promote local engagement to achieve the twin goals of sustainable energy transition and poverty reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105117
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • China
  • Energy transition
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Rural households
  • Solar development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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