IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/22895.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Charging Ahead: Prepaid Electricity Metering in South Africa

Author

Listed:
  • B. Kelsey Jack
  • Grant Smith

Abstract

The standard approach to recovering the cost of electricity provision is to bill customers monthly for past consumption. If unable to pay, customers face disconnection, the utility loses revenue, and the service provision model is undermined. A possible solution to this problem is prepaid metering, in which customers buy electricity upfront and use it until the prepaid amount is consumed. We use data from Cape Town, South Africa to examine the effects of prepaid electricity metering on residential consumption and returns to the electric utility. Over 4,000 customers on monthly billing were involuntarily assigned to receive a prepaid electricity meter, with exogenous variation in the timing of the meter replacement. Electricity use falls by about 13 percent as a result of the switch, a decrease that persists for the following year. This creates a tradeoff for the utility: revenue from consumption falls but more of it is recovered on time and at a lower cost. The benefits to the electric utility outweigh the costs, on average, though results are very heterogeneous. Poorer customers and those with a history of delinquent payment behavior show the greatest improvement in profitability when switched to a prepaid meter. These findings point to an important role for metering technologies in expanding energy access for the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Kelsey Jack & Grant Smith, 2016. "Charging Ahead: Prepaid Electricity Metering in South Africa," NBER Working Papers 22895, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22895
    Note: DEV EEE PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w22895.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Golumbeanu, Raluca & Barnes, Douglas, 2013. "Connection charges and electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6511, The World Bank.
    2. Tewari, D. D. & Shah, Tushaar, 2003. "An assessment of South African prepaid electricity experiment, lessons learned, and their policy implications for developing countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(9), pages 911-927, July.
    3. Kay, J. A. & Keen, M. J. & Morris, C. N., 1984. "Estimating consumption from expenditure data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 169-181.
    4. Paul Carrillo & Dina Pomeranz & Monica Singhal, 2017. "Dodging the Taxman: Firm Misreporting and Limits to Tax Enforcement," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 144-164, April.
    5. Gans, Will & Alberini, Anna & Longo, Alberto, 2013. "Smart meter devices and the effect of feedback on residential electricity consumption: Evidence from a natural experiment in Northern Ireland," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 729-743.
    6. Khan, Adnan Q. & Khwaja, Asim I. & Olken, Benjamin A., 2016. "Tax farming redux: experimental evidence on performance pay for tax collectors," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66265, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Gordon, Roger & Li, Wei, 2009. "Tax structures in developing countries: Many puzzles and a possible explanation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 855-866, August.
    8. Adnan Q. Khan & Asim I. Khwaja & Benjamin A. Olken, 2016. "Tax Farming Redux: Experimental Evidence on Performance Pay for Tax Collectors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(1), pages 219-271.
    9. Blundell, Richard & Meghir, Costas, 1987. "Bivariate alternatives to the Tobit model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 179-200.
    10. Szabó, Andrea & Ujhelyi, Gergely, 2015. "Reducing nonpayment for public utilities: Experimental evidence from South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 20-31.
    11. Kenneth Lee & Edward Miguel & Catherine Wolfram, 2016. "Experimental Evidence on the Demand for and Costs of Rural Electrification," NBER Working Papers 22292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Bekker, Bernard & Eberhard, Anton & Gaunt, Trevor & Marquard, Andrew, 2008. "South Africa's rapid electrification programme: Policy, institutional, planning, financing and technical innovations," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 3115-3127, August.
    13. Gaunt, C. T., 2005. "Meeting electrification's social objectives in South Africa, and implications for developing countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(10), pages 1309-1317, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Christopher Ksoll & Kristine Bos & Arif Mamun & Anthony Harris & Sarah Hughes, "undated". "Evaluation Design Report for the Benin Power Compact's Electricity Generation Project and Electricity Distribution Project," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 9f8974513ee745aaac3b5c62e, Mathematica Policy Research.
    2. repec:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:262-272 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22895. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.