Working papers:

"Experimental Evidence on the Demand for and Costs of Rural Electrification."
Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram. 2016.

Abstract: We present results from an experiment that randomized the expansion of electrical grid infrastructure in rural Kenya. Electricity distribution is the canonical example of a natural monopoly. Randomized price offers show that demand for electricity connections falls sharply with price. Experimental variation in the number of connections combined with administrative cost data reveals considerable scale economies, as hypothesized. Consumer surplus, however, is less than total costs at all price levels, suggesting that household electrification may reduce social welfare. We discuss how leakage, reduced demand (due to red tape, low reliability, and credit constraints), and possible spillovers may impact this conclusion. 

Media:
Op-Ed - Reuters [07/15]

Presentations: World Bank [5/16], Stanford [4/16], NBER EEE Meeting [4/16], UC Berkeley Development Lunch [3/16], IBM Research Africa (Nairobi) [11/15], World Bank KEMP Launch (Nairobi) [07/15], World Bank ABCA / CEGA (Berkeley) [06/15], National Electrification Strategy Committee, Kenya Ministry of Energy and Petroleum (Nairobi) [03/15]



Journal articles:

"Appliance Ownership and Aspirations among Electric Grid and Home Solar Households in Rural Kenya."
Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram. 2016.

Abstract: In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are active debates about whether increases in energy access should be driven by investments in electric grid infrastructure or small-scale “home solar” systems (e.g., solar lanterns and solar home systems). We summarize the results of a household electrical appliance survey and describe how households in rural Kenya differ in terms of appliance ownership and aspirations. Our data suggest that home solar is not a substitute for grid power. Furthermore, the environmental advantages of home solar are likely to be relatively small in countries like Kenya, where grid power is primarily derived from non-fossil fuel sources.

Media:
Blogs - Greentech Media [01/16], Energy Institute at Haas [01/16]



"Electrification for "Under Grid" Households in Rural Kenya."
Kenneth Lee, Eric Brewer, Carson Christiano, Francis Meyo, Edward Miguel, Matthew Podolsky, Javier Rosa, and Catherine Wolfram. 2016.

Abstract: In Sub-Saharan Africa, 600 million people live without electricity. Despite ambitions of governments and donors to invest in rural electrification, decisions about how to extend electricity access are being made in the absence of rigorous evidence. Using a novel dataset of 20,000 geo-tagged structures in rural Western Kenya, we provide descriptive evidence that electrification rates remain very low despite significant investments in grid infrastructure. This pattern holds across time and for both poor and relatively well-off households and businesses. We argue that if governments wish to leverage existing infrastructure and economies of scale, subsidies and new approaches to financing connections are necessary.


Media:
Stories - Quartz [01/17], Foreign Affairs [08/16], NPR "All Things Considered" [07/15], ClimateWire [07/15]
Blogs - GSMA [07/15], GSMA [09/14], USAID FIRM [08/14] Energy Institute at Haas [08/14]; Center for Global Development [07/14]

Presentations: CSAE (Oxford University) [03/15], USAID FIRM Electrification Workshop (Nairobi) [08/14]