Do energy transitions co-evolve with urbanization? We examine energy access in rapidly urbanizing Yangon, Myanmar using a two-wave mixed-method observational study design involving households (N = 600) situated along a rural to urban gradient. Heterogeneity in urbanicity allows us to substitute space for time to understand energy transitions. We examine factors associated with access and reliability of grid infrastructure, and use of clean fuels. Qualitative interviews (N = 20) with urban households explore drivers and barriers of transitions to modern energy. We find substantial heterogeneity in urban grid access, ranging from 58% to 99%. Urban residents with ‘informal’ status have significantly lower odds of grid access (odds ratio (OR): 0.02, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.00-0.34), and exclusive use of clean cooking fuels (OR: 0.17, 95% CI: 0.07-0.38). Informal and low-income households report energy access challenges due to lack of legal residency and cost of clean fuels. Urban energy poverty is persistent; households residing in Yangon for 5–10 years have significantly lower odds of using exclusive clean fuel for cooking (OR: 0.38, 95% CI: 0.24-0.60) and lighting (OR: 0.32, 95% CI: 0.13-0.79) compared to newer migrants. We find that despite lower grid access in rural areas adjacent to urban agglomerations, rural households are 2.6 to 6.5 times more likely to use clean lighting fuels due to high take-up of solar and more reliable grid electricity. We recommend future research on factors influencing heterogeneity of urban energy acccess, and that policy makers address barriers to energy transitions for marginalized urban populations.
March 25, 2022