Kenneth Lee

Department of Agricultural
and Resource Economics
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2016Experimental Evidence on the Demand for and Costs of Rural Electrification
with Edward Miguel, Catherine Wolfram: w22292
We present results from an experiment that randomized the expansion of electric grid infrastructure in rural Kenya. Electricity distribution is the canonical example of a natural monopoly. Randomized price offers show that demand for electricity connections falls sharply with price. Experimental variation in the number of connections combined with administrative cost data reveals considerable scale economies, as hypothesized. However, consumer surplus is far less than total costs at all price levels, suggesting that residential electrification may reduce social welfare. We discuss how leakage, reduced demand (due to red tape, low reliability, and credit constraints), and spillovers may impact this conclusion.
January 2016Appliance Ownership and Aspirations among Electric Grid and Home Solar Households in Rural Kenya
with Edward Miguel, Catherine Wolfram: w21949
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are active debates about whether increases in energy access should be driven by investments in electric grid infrastructure or small-scale “home solar” systems (e.g., solar lanterns and solar home systems). We summarize the results of a household electrical appliance survey and describe how households in rural Kenya differ in terms of appliance ownership and aspirations. Our data suggest that home solar is not a substitute for grid power. Furthermore, the environmental advantages of home solar are likely to be relatively small in countries like Kenya, where grid power is primarily derived from non-fossil fuel sources

Published: Kenneth Lee & Edward Miguel & Catherine Wolfram, 2016. "Appliance Ownership and Aspirations among Electric Grid and Home Solar Households in Rural Kenya," American Economic Review, vol 106(5), pages 89-94. citation courtesy of

July 2014Barriers to Electrification for "Under Grid" Households in Rural Kenya
with Eric Brewer, Carson Christiano, Francis Meyo, Edward Miguel, Matthew Podolsky, Javier Rosa, Catherine Wolfram: w20327
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 600 million people live without electricity. Despite ambitions of governments and donors to invest in rural electrification, decisions about how to extend electricity access are being made in the absence of rigorous evidence. Using a novel dataset of 20,000 geo-tagged structures in rural Western Kenya, we provide descriptive evidence that electrification rates remain very low despite significant investments in grid infrastructure. This pattern holds across time and for both poor and relatively well-off households and businesses. We argue that if governments wish to leverage existing infrastructure and economies of scale, subsidies and new approaches to financing connections are necessary.
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