The Political Economy of Power Outages in Ghana: New Measures and Analysis

Access to reliable energy is crucial for economic growth. Yet while global attention has focused on increasing access, an under-recognized constraint in many countries is poor reliability of electricity supply. In Ghana, despite heavy investments to expand access to 80% of the country, an ongoing power crisis is overshadowing these gains. Dumsor, the persistent on and off cycling of electricity, has resulted in job losses, a decline in welfare, and threatens the electoral security of the current government in the election of 2016.

This project introduces a new measure of power supply reliability and outages based upon temporal variations in nighttime light output observed by earth observing satellites. This work builds upon ongoing research that has been used to create a Power Supply Irregularity (PSI_D) index. This new project extends the methodology to create a new PSI_V measure that takes advantage of vastly improved nighttime lights data being collected by the newer Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) satellite. Measures are validated against outage data reported by Ghana’s largest utility.

This new measure will enable an investigation into the political economy of outage patterns in Ghana, a competitive electoral democracy in the midst of a severe energy crisis. Early research shows substantial differences in the frequency of power outages across Ghana’s regions. Importantly, these patterns have evolved over time and are now more extreme than ever with some areas experiencing far more outages while others now experience far fewer outages. These patterns suggest a political economy explanation, since technical or commercial factors alone would not predict such change over time. Drawing on detailed electoral data, the project will examine how prior election results have shaped the political pressure applied on Ghana’s state utilities to deliver electricity. This research also examines how Ghana’s energy crisis is related to vote choice in the December 2016 election.

 

Investigators
Brian Min

Funders
The London School of Economics and Political Science

Funding Period
2017-2019