Overall, the issues identified in the 1980s remain extremely relevant today in the context of the new international emphasis on providing modern energy access for all. This includes its social impact and the productive use of electricity for agriculture and small business development.
Today several aspects of this debate have changed. The international donors now are solidly behind the idea that poor people should have access to electricity. With the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All program highlighting the importance of providing electricity to even the most remote corners of the earth, the debate over the efficacy of rural electrification is historically relevant, but over. However, the new international programs advocating for rural electrification have forgotten some of the past lessons for implementing good programs that do not detract from the importance of rural electrification for development.
This entirely new production of the original book offers important historical information on the state of rural electrification in the 1980s. I have updated the text and titles, and the tables and charts have been revised for clarity. Some material that is no longer relevant has been omitted. I also have added a new chapter that summarizes the development of benefit evaluation methods, along with findings from recent research on the impact of rural electrification for development.
Most people don't think much about energy. They just flick a switch to light a room or turn on their computers to browse the internet. This is not true for over one billion of the poorest people in the world, who incredibly still do not enjoy the advantages of having electricity. Despite much progress, even today many still question the exact nature of electricity's benefits for the world's poor? Is rural electrification important for education and quality of life? Does it improve rural productivity? Can the poor afford electricity? The new edition of the classic book Electric Power for Rural Growth answers these questions and more.
This Second Edition is entirely rewritten. The book is faithful to reporting the results from the original household surveys conducted in India, Colombia and Indonesia, but has a brand new chapter summarizing current research and tracing the development of benefit evaluation techniques over three decades. With the new international mandate to provide Sustainable Energy for All, Electric Power for Rural growth is perhaps more important today than when it was first published 25 years ago.
Review by Shahid Khandker, Lead Economist, World Bank
Electric Power for Rural Growth should be required reading for anyone interested in impact evaluation of infrastructure and development. In this second revision of a classic study, Dr. Barnes eloquently presents the history of findings on rural electrification impacts in the 1980s. In an entirely new chapter, he also updates recent research and methods for evaluating the impact of rural electrification. Great progress has been made since the 1980s, with over two billion people having gained access to electricity. Yet, as this compelling research reminds us, even in the 21st century, more than one billion people are still in the dark, and they need to be brought into the modern world.