Published in PNAS: In Tanzania, unreliable electricity impedes development

Published in PNAS: In Tanzania, unreliable electricity impedes development Published in PNAS: In Tanzania, unreliable electricity impedes development

August 16, 20192 min read
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Berkeley, July 29, 2019 — Six researchers from the University of California, Berkeley examined the quality of electrical services in Unguja, Tanzania, and found that voltage quality varied significantly for households connected to the grid, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


The authors -- Veronica Jacome, Noah Klugman, Catherine Wolfram, Belinda Grunfeld, Duncan Callaway, and Isha Ray -- examined the quality of electrical services in Unguja, Tanzania, via 151 household interviews, 62 open-ended interviews, and monitoring the island’s electrical grid for two years with voltage measurements. They found that extreme electricity fluctuations resulted in lights that were too dim to be useful at best and broken appliances and power outages at worst, suggesting that low-income Unguja residents do not reap the full benefits of modern energy services. 


“This research provides a detailed mapping of voltage quality in a sub-Sahara African (SSA) community and connects power systems data to household surveys and interviews for a comprehensive understanding of life under an unreliable grid. Reliability within the context of "modern energy for all" in SSA has traditionally focused on power outages rather than voltage quality and on businesses rather than households. Our research expands on energy access scholarship and reliability concerns in SSA by offering an illustrative case study of access in Unguja, Tanzania. As electricity access expands in financially constrained communities, creating capacity-constrained connections, our Unguja study offers a crucial look at what that access means for SSA communities.” Power Quality and Modern Energy for All – PNAS July 29, 2019


The study further examines how basic and reliable access to utilities like energy and electricity can benefit communities, bolster local economies, and provide sustainable conditions for success and growth.


Dr. Catherine Wolfram is the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and an associate dean for academic affairs at the Haas School of Business. She is the program director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Environment and Energy Economics Program and was one of the key contributors to the socio-economic analysis in this article. Wolfram is available to speak with media regarding this research – simply click on her icon to arrange an interview.




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  • Catherine Wolfram
    Catherine Wolfram Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Chair of the Faculty | Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration

    Leading expert on energy and environmental economics

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