Showing posts with label rural electrification. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rural electrification. Show all posts

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Measuring Household Lighting: Survey Design Issues

Lighting: Credit NRECA
In developed countries we take electric lights for granted. We throw a switch, and presto the room lights up from ceiling to floor. But we all have experienced life without electricity during periodic brownouts and blackouts when we get out the candles for several hours. Unfortunately for the approximately 1.5 billion people without electricity in developing countries, there is no switch to throw.

One of the major benefits of rural electrification in developing countries is household lighting. In fact, people often ask my advice on how to measure such benefits. The issues can range from sampling to questionnaire design to sampling techniques. Thus, this is the first in a series of blogs which I will call Survey Design. For the first in this series, I am going to focus on how to measure household lighting. Stay tuned for more on surveys.

Lighting Efficinecy: Credit D. Barnes
People without electricity in developing countries generally light their homes with candles or kerosene wick lamps. The light given from a kerosene lamp is very dim and not great for reading and there is a good reason for this. For measuring lighting in households it is essential to understand that light is measured in lumens. A lumen is a unit used for measuring brightness. A kerosene lamp or a candle gives off about 11 lumens (see chart). By comparison a 100 watt incandescent light bulb provides 1,600 lumens, which is labeled on most packaging. The figure demonstrates that electric lights are much more efficient in converting energy into light. In a measurement study on lighting output it was found that a 100 watt incandescent light bulb typically found in developing countries actually turned out to provide 12.8 kilolumens of light per kilowatt hour compared to 0.1 kilolumens per kilowatt hour for a kerosene lamp. Fluorescent lights are even more efficient.

The reason for the difference between the lumen levels listed on the label on a light bulb package and the testing results has to do with the measurement environment. Actual lumen levels vary based on factors such as reflectors, lenses and location of the light in a room.

Efficiency of Lamps: Credit D. Barnes
How does that have an impact on household lighting? I will demonstrate this by using the results of a household energy survey from Peru. These results are based on actual use of various lighting sources for a national rural sample of 6000 households. As can be seen, the candle and kerosene lamps provide barely enough light to walk around the house. Car Batteries are used for lighting by households with higher incomes but without grid electricity and they provide more light. Due to the efficiency of converting energy into light, electricity from the grid is the best source for household lighting for households who participated in the survey in rural Peru. One may wonder why these household without electricity do not use household photovoltaic systems, but that will be the subject of another post.

For more resources on this topic click the link below. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Measuring the Benefits of Electricity

It is very difficult to measure the value of electricity in many countries because access to it is virtually universal and prices and connection costs are often subsidized or set by regulatory agencies. One interesting way to estimate the value of services such as electricity is to ask people how much money they would take if the service was taken away from them. This is actually a research method that is used most often in environmental studies.

DC Blizzard of 2010 Photo D. Barnes
I am actually writing about this today because of the Washington DC Blizzard of 2010 this past weekend. After getting 28 inches of snow, our electricity service went out for about 24 hours. This not only meant no light, television, or internet, but our gas furnace requires electricity to operate. With outdoor temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside the house quickly dropped to first 60 and then 50 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 10 Celsius). Our decorative fireplace did not help very much.

To get warm I actually went outside for a walk, and as I was going down the street I passed the site where the electricity lines were down. I saw an electricity truck passing by, and someone on the other side of the street shoveling snow yelled in jest, “Hey I have a few hundred dollar bills if you fix those power lines.” Obviously, his offer was based on the prospect of a cold house without lighting, heating, entertainment, comfort, and communications for just a few days.

In one study that I was involved in we actually asked the people in focus groups how much we would have to pay them to take electricity away from them for 2 years; they would not be permitted to buy generators or other electricity from other sources. They knew this was a hypothetical question, but they gave to some interesting answers. One younger couple gave us a figure of about USD 20,000 which is quite a bit of money in the Philippines 10 years ago. However, one older woman was adamant. She said “I grew up without electricity and you could not pay me anything that would induce me to go without it.” This reminded me of the man with the snow shovel in Washington DC during the blizzard of 2010.

How would you characterize the benefits of rural electrificatoin.  Take the poll below. 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Benefits of Rural Electrification in Developing Countries

I am always surprised when people question the benefits of rural electrification programs in developing countries as sometimes happens. The argument goes something like this. People in rural areas cannot afford much more than the amount of electricity required for basic lighting. In addition, there are other investments that may be more worthwhile than electricity such as education, health clinics, or clean water. This is fair enough, so let’s examine some of the benefits of rural electrification. Before getting started, here are some links to related posts on this blog.

The Household Benefits of Lighting with Electricity: Consumer Surplus Explained

Electric Power for Rural Growth, 2nd Edition

Measuring the Benefits of Rural Electrification

Measuring Household Lighting: Survey Design Issues

Rural Electrification and Communication

Facing Rural Energy Realities in Bangladesh

Impact of Rural Electrification in Peru:  A "New" Study

One reason for this skeptical attitude towards the impact of electricity in developing countries is that as friend of mine used to say, “Electricity by itself is nothing more than a dangerous wire.” The service being purchased is not really electricity at all, but such benefits as cooling, lighting, communications, cooling, heating, and socializing. Electricity is a means to an end and not the end itself. It also should be noted that electricity can be provided through a grid as is the case in most of the developed world, or through decentralized generation that often is based on renewable energy.

Computer Lab in Northern Vietnam:
Source: World Bank

The surprising thing is that those questioning the benefits of rural electrification go home in the evening, turn on their televisions, check their email, browse the internet, enjoy heating in winter and air conditioning in summer, sometimes cook their meals with electricity and sit down in a comfortable chair and read a nice book. It is true that not all of the benefits of electricity are affordable to poor people in developing countries, but certainly lighting, television, fans, and are within their means. Computers and internet cannot be far behind. Really, how can societies advance without electricity? I will leave the issue whether the benefits are with the costs of providing electricity for a later blog post.
To view a film and other resources continue below.

Some years ago I completed a book on this subject called Electric Power for Rural Growth. In 2014 I published the second edition. There also has been a comprehensive review of The Welfare Impact of Rural Electrification in the World Bank by the Independent Evaluation Group. For evaluating the impact of improved and less expensive lighting for rural households, there is an interesting economic four page article by Henry Peskin that explains the theory of consumer surplus and how it is applied to evaluating the benefits of rural electrification in A Primer on Consumer Surplus. For a more comprehensive work on this subject the original study that applied this approach to rural electrification was pioneered in study called Rural Electrification and Development in the Philippines.

For the more statistically inclined there are some recent papers just published on The Welfare Impact of Rural Electrification in Vietnam and Bangladesh. According the Vietnam paper, based two surveys in 2002 and 2005 households who adopt electricity experience improvements in the school attendance of their children. Electricity is used immediately for television viewing and of course for electric lighting making it easier to read, socialize, and enjoy the evening hours. In some cases this can lead to improved incomes as lighting makes possible running small businesses in the home.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rural Electrification and Low Connection Costs

Village in Maharashtra India: by D. Barnes
Many developing countries still have very high connection costs.  This helps with the utility to recover costs of providing serive, but it also means that many people even in areas with electricity available may not be able to afford a connection to the electricity grid.  Reasearch from around the world indicates that those countries wth low new service connection costs or which provide financal assistance for such costs have much higher rates of connection by poorer households. 

Given that the benefits of rural electrification are quite high, should countries or utilities with high connection costs consider changing their policies?

For more information see short note on
Transformative Power.

There will be more to come on this topic in the future as we are just collecting collecting cost information from a large number of countries.  See new post added in 2013.