Questions and answers about
the UK economy.

Resilience to economic shocks through continued electricity access

As Covid-19 spreads, access to reliable electricity will be critical in allowing households and firms to continue productive activities, keep their phones charged, and stay up-to-date on public health guidelines. Government restrictions that are needed to slow down the infection rate (e.g., stay-at home orders, lockdowns, etc.) will likely cause severe economic impacts. These impacts will be the highest in the world’s poorest communities, leading many to suddenly find themselves unable to pay their monthly bills. In Kenya and Ghana, we expect disruptions in the ability of people to afford ongoing electricity consumption. In anticipation of this urgent problem, we propose providing emergency “lifeline” electricity credits to randomly selected households, in order to identify the impacts of policies aimed at subsidizing utility bills in response to an economic crisis. Structural changes in the location and type of electricity consumption, combined with reduced maintenance due to the lockdown, further threaten to stress the infrastructure and increase power outages. We propose to leverage our ongoing fieldwork in both Kenya and Ghana to investigate these issues in both rural and urban areas of Africa.

Lead investigator:

Catherine Wolfram


University of California, Berkeley

Primary topic:

Inequality & poverty

Secondary topic:

Recession & recovery

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Unit of real-time data collection