Rural Electricity Supply: Commodity or Entitlement?

Lead PI: Johannes Urpelainen, Brian Blankenship, Jason Wong

Unit Affiliation: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP)

June 2019 - Ongoing
Asia ; India ; Uttar Pradesh
Project Type: Research Outreach

DESCRIPTION: Quality of electricity service remains poor in many developing countries. Reforms to distorted pricing mechanisms involving citizens increasing their payments in exchange for better service must be done carefully to avoid political backlash and persistent theft. Are people not willing to pay for better electricity quality because they feel entitled to electricity provision, or is it because they do not trust one another to also do their part?

In a survey conducted in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, we examine factors that influence stated willingness to pay for better service (i.e., more hours of power per day) among rural households. Our results indicate that the general levels of trust are low, and that entitlement plays less of a role as to whether households are willing or not to contribute to improved electricity quality. Low willingness to pay remains a major obstacle to pricing reform. Generalized trust is strongly associated with higher willingness to pay for better electricity. Delays in service improvements and a lack of community support for pricing reform reduce willingness to pay for better quality.

OUTCOMES: We provide three recommendations as follows.
• Building trust within the community, across agents, and with utilities could help achieve better rural electricity outcomes.
• Properly reducing incentives for theft is important for rural electricity reform.
• Poverty alleviation must be taken into account in electricity reform policies.