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electrification

The politics of rural electrification in Sri Lanka

Thilani L. Navaratne's picture

The 10th South Asian Economics Students Meet (SAESM) was held in Lahore, Pakistan, bringing together 82 top economics undergraduate students from the region. The theme was the Political Economy of South Asia, with a winning paper selected for each of the six sub-themes. In this post, Thilani Navaratne presents her winning paper on the political economy of energy and natural resource use. Posts from the other winning authors have also been featured on this blog, and can be found at the end of this post.

In the past, Sri Lankan policy makers and politicians paid considerable attention to creating surplus energy capacity at the national level in order to support rapid development while at the same time, embarked on rural development as a prime political initiative where the rural electrification infrastructure formed a crucial component of the policy framework.

I conducted an analysis of the dynamics and the characteristics of the political economy of access to energy in rural electrification in Sri Lanka. The study focuses on how national policies shaped rural energy access and what influence rural politics and demand at the grassroots level have had on the energy infrastructure.

In addition to that the study explores the budgetary policies that had a direct bearing on national energy policies, and more specifically in creating rural energy infrastructure itself.  While the provision of energy is the main component of rural energy access, the affordability of energy at rural level remains a key factor in the ultimate, tangible outcomes of energy usage. Clearly, rural economic development and enhancement of living standards are intrinsically linked with the degree of access to energy at affordable prices.

My paper finds that rural access to energy has come about both as a direct outcome of specific policies as well as a result of broader policies of rural development. Specific policies include the National Energy Policy which addresses the basic energy needs of the nation and sets out strategies to be followed to fulfil such needs. Much broader, macro level policies relating to Rural Development and energy accessibility are captured in the  “Mahinda Chinthana”- The long term plan for the future of the nation, presented by the governing regime and in the Ministerial Policies.

Long term impacts of household electrification in rural India

Dominique Van De Walle's picture

It is estimated that 1.3 billion people in 2009 were still without electricity. Many rural households in the developing world continue to cook with wood and biomass (mainly dung), and spend a lot of time collecting and preparing fuel for domestic use. Across the world, these time (and resulting health) burdens are thought to be higher for women and the children under their care. 

One popular argument is that by relieving time burdens spent in collecting and preparing fuel, household electricity results in rural women engaging in market-based work — judged to be a good thing since women’s empowerment has been linked to having one’s own income.  In fact, a number of studies show that the introduction of household electrical appliances accounts for a large share of the increase in married American women’s labor force participation in the 20th century. For the developing world, a recent paper by Taryn Dinkelman finds similar and large effects on female employment (and not on male employment) for South Africa, which are attributed to the use of electric stoves and other time saving appliances. 

Keeping the hope alive in Myanmar

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Axel talks about his trip to Myanmar in a video below.

You can feel the energy in Myanmar today—from the streets of Yangon, in the offices of government ministries and in rural villages. Dramatic political and economic changes are sweeping the country.

Power to the Poor in Laos brings electricity to (almost) all

Alfredo Baño Leal's picture

Building on the story about rural electrification in Laos, let me talk to you about an innovative concept under the electrification program umbrella that focused on those more disadvantaged and with fewer opportunities. This new concept is the Power to the Poor program (P2P).

The P2P scheme was launched in September 2008, although it was identified a few years earlier, in 2005. At that time, a social impact survey was carried out and among all data analyzed, one indicator was outstanding: the pick-up rate in the villages recently electrified was on average only a 70%. What was happening with the remaining 30% of households that were not being connected? It was not a design problem as those households were just a few meters from the electric post. It was, as with many problems in life, a financial problem: the connection fee charged by the power utility, Electricité du Laos (EdL), was too expensive to be paid upfront by the poorest households.

Electrifying Laos: The Movie

Alfredo Baño Leal's picture

The history of the power sector in Lao PDR is relatively new. 15 years ago, Laos counted with just a couple of large hydropower plants, and a meager 16% of the households throughout the country counted with electricity access, mostly concentrated in Vientiane, the capital city, and few provincial towns such as Luang Prabang and Savannakett.

Infrastructures needed an urgent push to help the economy start up and reduce the extreme poverty rates of the population. During the beginning of the 90’s, several donors including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) began different infrastructure development programs, including roads, water supply and electrification.