Electric heating and the effects of temperature on household electricity consumption in South Africa. Revision Requested from The Energy Journal. Energy Institute at Haas Working Paper #299. February 2019. Household energy consumption in developing countries is expected to surge in the coming decades. Yet little is known about how temperature drives household energy demand in developing countries. This paper uses 132,375,282 hourly electricity consumption observations from 5,975 households in South Africa to estimate the effects of temperature on household electricity consumption. The estimates flexibly identify a constant log-linear temperature response: for every 1°C increase in temperature, electricity consumption decreases by 4.1% among temperatures below the heating threshold but increases by 12.2% among temperatures above the cooling threshold. This relationship is driven more strongly by seasonal than hourly temperature changes. Holding all else constant, a 3.25°C increase in temperatures would reduce electricity consumption by 1,093.4 kWh (6.2%) per year per household. Widespread use of electric heating due to limited residential gas heating infrastructure likely drives this. These results point to important regional heterogeneity in how temperature increases may affect household energy demand in the coming decades.
Hardware, apps, and surveys at scale: Measuring low-voltage grid reliability in Accra, Ghana(with Noah Klugman, Kwame Abrokwah, Joshua Adkins, Ivan Boboshev, Matt Podolsky, Aldo Suseno, Revati Thatte, Catherine Wolfram, Jay Taneja, and Prabal Dutta). Conditionally Accepted. May 2019.
Research in Progress
Behavioral barriers to energy efficiency adoption in Kenya: evidence from cookstoves (with Joshua Dean) We seek to quantify how behavioral biases and market frictions affect poor households’ adoption and usage of energy efficient durables. While a substantial literature studies how behavioral anomalies and failures of rationality—self-control problems, incorrect beliefs, and limited attention—contribute to the energy efficiency gap in the US (see Gillingham and Palmer for a review), little work exists in a development setting. This is important because biases might operate differently in poor environments. It could be that biases are exacerbated by stress or cognitive load associated with poverty (see Haushofer and Fehr for a review), or it could be that because poverty makes large, durable purchases high-stakes, poorer individuals are more likely to make decisions more carefully. Market frictions common in developing settings, like liquidity constraints and asymmetric information, might further exacerbate any failures of rationality. This will be the first paper to rigorously quantify the energy efficiency gap, causally identify the mechanisms driving this gap, and estimate its welfare effects, and it will do so in a high-stakes development setting. (This study is registered in the AEA RCT Registry, ID AEARCTR-0002484. Click here to view the Pre-Analysis Plan.)
The political economy and governance of rural electrification(with Eric Hsu, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram) Although governments in low-income countries frequently outsource public good provision to the private sector, the political economy and governance issues in this sphere remain poorly understood. We study outsourced public good provision by a low-capacity state in the context of Kenya’s national Last Mile Connectivity Project, which aims to provide universal household electricity access by 2020 using World Bank and African Development Bank funding. We collect rich administrative and spatial planning data on the construction process across hundreds of projects, and complement this with novel field engineering assessments and household surveys to study the channels affecting leakage and technical construction of a nationwide infrastructure project. (This study is registered in the AEA RCT Registry, ID AEARCTR-0002389)
The economics of long-term grid reliability (with Catherine Wolfram and Steve Puller). Energy Institute at Haas Blog (co-authored with Catherine Wolfram), February 2019. In urban areas of Ghana, more than 90% of households are already connected to the electric grid. In these settings, the primary issue is the reliability of the grid rather than the lack of access to electricity. Since 2012, persistent power failures in Ghana have negatively affected its economy and given rise to the term “Dumsor,” meaning “lights off-on” in the local Akan language. According to the 2013 World Bank Enterprise Surveys, 61.2% of firms in Ghana see electricity reliability as a major constraint, with firms reporting an average of over 700 hours of outages annually, compared to 1.5 hours for firms in the U.S. We deploy the GridWatch technology and exploit experimental and quasi-random variation in power quality across Accra to understand the costs, benefits, and socio-economic impacts of power quality improvements.
Political incentives and public goods provision in Kenya: Evidence from the electrification of rural community facilities(with Kenneth Lee and Michael Walker). We study how political incentives affect the allocation of government funds to community facilities in rural Kenya. The government officials that are responsible for allocating resources across public facilities often face personal political incentives such as election pressures, causing realized allocations to differ from what would have been optimal to achieve poverty reduction. In rural Kenya, where some counties have an average per capita GDP of only $282, the proper funding and functioning of public facilities such as schools, health centers, and central markets are crucial for achieving poverty alleviation. Members of parliament may overweight allocation of funds towards areas where they are politically either particularly weak (for example to win votes in an upcoming election) or strong (for example to reward constituents that voted for them in a recent election), rather than allocate funding for public facilities where it is needed most. We study the electrification of 3,202 public facilities, including markets, schools, health centers, and water points, by the Rural Electrification Authority in 162 nationally representative constituencies in Kenya, between 2008-2013 to answer this question.