We present results from an experiment that randomized the expansion of electric grid infrastructure in rural Kenya. Electricity distribution is a canonical example of a natural monopoly. Our experimental variation in the number of connections, combined with administrative cost data, reveals considerable scale economies, as hypothesized. Randomized price offers indicate that demand for connections falls sharply with price, and is far lower than anticipated by policymakers. Among newly connected households, average electricity consumption is very low, implying low consumer surplus. Moreover, we do not find meaningful medium-run impacts on economic and non-economic outcomes. We discuss implications for current efforts to increase rural electrification in Kenya, and highlight how credit constraints, bureaucratic red tape, low reliability, leakage, and other factors may affect interpretation of the results.
Default Effects and Follow-On Behavior: Evidence From an Electricity Pricing Program
We study default effects in the context of a residential electricity-pricing program. We analyze a large-scale randomized controlled trial in which one treatment group was given the option to opt-in to time-varying pricing while another was defaulted into the program but allowed to opt-out. We provide dramatic evidence of a default effect on program participation, consistent with previous research. A novel feature of our study is that we also observe how the default manipulation impacts customers’ subsequent electricity consumption. Passive consumers who did not opt-out but would not have opted in --- comprising more than 70 percent of the sample --- nonetheless reduce consumption in response to higher prices. Observation of this follow-on behavior enables us to assess competing explanations for the default effect. We draw conclusions about the likely welfare effects of defaulting customers onto time-varying pricing.