In most developing countries, at the household level, traditional burning of biomass or use of inefficient technologies for domestic applications like lighting is common, triggering concerns related to fuel or technology switching. The paper focuses on opportunities to promote cleaner energy options through development of value chains delivering improved energy efficiency and access in developing countries. We discuss the example of Uttam Urja, a field project involving the dissemination of photovoltaic lighting technologies in rural areas of India. We focus on the challenges of introducing radical innovations into the residential energy sector in developing countries. For the purpose of this paper the Uttam Urja project is conceptualized as an ‘experiment’ and analysed using the Strategic Niche Management (SNM) framework. The paper emphasizes that to effect socio-technical transitions to clean energy options on the ground, it is desirable to focus on technology customization and innovative financing to cater to the needs and concerns of end users.