Electoral cycles in electricity losses in India
A third of electricity in India is lost each year, where losses refer to power that is supplied but not billed. Utilizing data from the power corporation of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, we study the politics of electricity losses. Examining annual data over four decades, we document that UP's electricity losses tend to increase in periods immediately prior to state assembly elections. Drawing upon geographically disaggregated data for the period 2000–09, we observe higher line losses just prior to the 2002 and 2007 state elections. Our analysis shows that the incumbent party was more likely to retain the assembly seat as line losses in the locality increased. We interpret these results as corroboration that political parties deliberately redirect electricity to flat rate and unbilled users in a context of chronically inadequate supply. Political factors appear to affect line losses in ways that technical and economic factors alone cannot explain.
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