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In 1879, the year Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, about 1.2 billion people lived on the planet (The Maddison Project, 2013). Today, 141 years later, almost a billion people still do not use electricity as their primary source of lighting. There is a clear relationship between the national income of countries across the globe and their energy consumption. And yet developing country institutions have failed to achieve their goals, with hundreds of millions of people disconnected from the grid, and even more households forced to make do with intermittent and unreliable power. The problem only gets thornier because a host of environmental problems – air pollution and climate change included – accompany energy use and already threaten welfare in poor countries. Policymakers thus find themselves seemingly caught between conflicting imperatives – use more energy, keep prices low, and protect the environment at the same time. This talk discusses this energy and development challenge and the ways in which University of Chicago researchers are attempting to solve it.