Econonomics of Energy and Environmental Policy

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Conceptual and Institutional Prerequisites for Guiding Equitable Progress Towards Universal Rural Electrification

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Rural electrification is a means not an end, explicitly or implicitly aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions and living standards of those living in rural areas. Yet, most policies and programs aimed at rural electrification solely target and are evaluated on extending connections, with mixed results. In this article, we argue that next generation electrification policy formulation must consider the following elements: (1) measurement of distinct multi-dimensional supply attributes at higher regional granularity, (2) considerations of local institutional capacity constraints and (3) independent evaluation mechanisms. We draw these arguments from both qualitative and quantitative analyses of longitudinal country-level rural electrification datasets, sub-national cross-sectional datasets and three specific flagship rural electrification schemes. Our results indicate that aggregate connection rates mask inadequate supply quality and geographic disparity in infrastructure provision. Exploring potential mechanism for these differences, we find that rural electrification policy outcomes are modified by the local institutional capacity, which we proxy using an indicator for the quality of government distinct from local economic characteristics. Case studies of flagship rural electrification schemes in Brazil, India and Morocco provide further insight into potential mechanisms, finding similarities in center-led efforts combined with regulatory controls and the integration of targeted pro-poor subsidies and decentralized electrification technologies.
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Keywords: Rural electrification, energy access policy, measurement, evaluation

DOI: 10.5547/2160-5890.11.1.spel

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Published in Volume 11, Number 1 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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