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The Economic Costs of Unsupplied Electricty: Evidence from Backup Generation among African Firms


  • Musiliu 0. Oseni
  • Michael G. Pollitt


Public electricity provision in Africa has been marred by under investment and frequent power outages.One of the strategies often adopted by firms to cope with this poor public supply is investment in backup generation. This strategy is not without cost however. Extant literatures on outage cost estimation have shown that firms possessing certain characteristics have a higher tendency to invest in backup generation. What is less known, however, is whether those firms suffer lesser or higher unmitigated outage losses (costs). Using cross-sectional data from 6854 firms currently operating in 12 African countries, this study investigated the extent to which firms’ characteristics might create incentives for auto-generation and whether these incentives lead to lesser unmitigated outage costs.We used three different methods including marginal cost, incomplete backup and subjective evaluation techniques. The results reveal that large firms, firms engaging in exports, and those using the Internet for their operationstill suffer higher unmitigated outage costs despite having a higher propensity of investing in backup generation. The results further reveal that unmitigated costs still account for the larger proportion of the total outage costs despite high prevalence of backup ownership among the firms. This reflects the inefficiency in backup generation due to small backup capacity held by firms. Our estimates also indicate that ignoring firms'characteristics such as size and the nature of operation (e.g. export promotion, internet usage, etc.) may result in underestimation of outage losses. The analysis further suggests that firms can still benefit significantly even when the current subsidised tariffs are replaced by cost-reflective rates that ensure stable electricity supply. The net outage cost (having adjusted for a cost-reflective tariff) incurred by firms are large enough to expand their scope of operation and hire more workers, suggesting the macroeconomic effect could be significant.

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  • Musiliu 0. Oseni & Michael G. Pollitt, 2013. "The Economic Costs of Unsupplied Electricty: Evidence from Backup Generation among African Firms," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1351, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:1351

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Oseni, Musiliu O. & Pollitt, Michael G., 2016. "The promotion of regional integration of electricity markets: Lessons for developing countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 628-638.
    2. Salci, Sener & Jenkins, Glenn, 2016. "An Economic and Stakeholder Analysis for the Design of IPP Contracts for Wind Farms," MPRA Paper 70578, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Oseni, Musiliu O. & Pollitt, Michael G., 2014. "Institutional arrangements for the promotion of regional integration of electricity markets : international experience," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6947, The World Bank.
    4. repec:aen:journl:ej38-4-oseni is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Oseni, Musiliu O. & Pollitt, Michael G., 2015. "A firm-level analysis of outage loss differentials and self-generation: Evidence from African business enterprises," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(PB), pages 277-286.
    6. Salci, Sener & Jenkins, Glenn, 2016. "An Economic and Stakeholder Analysis for the Design of IPP Contracts for Wind Farms," MPRA Paper 70578, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    Africa; Backup; Electricity; Firms; Outage costs; Two-Limit Tobit;

    JEL classification:

    • L6 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • N77 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Africa; Oceania
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy

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