Shine a light: Community Effects of Distributed Energy Systems in East Africa since the 1990s

Källarsalen Session 1: Paths towards sustained development in the global south: Historical lessons organized by Erik Green and Ellen Hillbom


Jakob Hannerz, Jutta Bolt


Access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy remains a critical issue in Africa, where 43% of the continent’s population, or more than half a billion people lack access to electricity, with the majority living in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite being home to nearly 18% of the world’s population, Africa accounts for less than 6% of global energy use (IEA, 2022). The United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals aim for universal access to energy for all. However, insufficient national energy supply in countries often results in remote communities being overlooked due to their distant settlement, low electricity demand, and poor payment capabilities. Using panel data on rural communities and households electrified by distributed off-grid energy solutions, we study the effects of Kenya’s and Tanzania’s rural electrification expansion since the 1990s. Both countries are at the forefront of off-grid electrification initiatives, but they differ in terms of government electrification strategies, with Kenya allowing some private participation in the form of Independent Power Producers (IPPs), while Tanzania maintains more state control with limited private participation. Using data on rural off-grid electricity projects, together with regional Demographic and Heath Survey (DHS) data, and night-time lights, we are assessing the communal benefits of electrification, beyond household connectivity, using a difference-in-difference (DiD) approach. Moreover, by looking at the East African cases of Kenya and Tanzania, we are further able to investigate whether there are differences in communal- and household benefits of electrification depending on the public or private-oriented electrification strategy. By looking at community benefits, beyond household connectivity, we hope to contribute to how energy access could be defined, and by looking at public- and private participation, we hope to discover what the impact of the different strategies is towards the end consumer.


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