Benin Energy Compact Evaluation

Prepared for
Millennium Challenge Corporation

electrical lines in African landscapeElectricity supply challenges stemming from frail electricity infrastructure and the weak financial condition of the electricity utility pose a significant barrier to economic progress in Benin. Similar to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the household electrification rate is low, at only 28.2 percent. Households that are connected to the grid are subject to frequent voltage fluctuations and outages. The country is highly dependent on non-renewable sources of energy and on electricity imports from neighboring countries, and has recently resorted to high-cost rental diesel generation to address electricity scarcity. To address some of these challenges, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has partnered with the Government of Benin to implement the Benin II Energy Compact.

Mathematica Policy Research is evaluating two of the activities that make up the Compact.  The Electricity Generation Project seeks to increase domestic generation capacity through new solar power plants and possibly a new thermal power plant, and the rehabilitation of an existing hydroelectric plant. The Electricity Distribution Project aims to strengthen the grid through upgrades and repairs; constructing a new national electricity distribution control center; and connecting 10,000 new households in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city. Mathematica’s evaluation will employ a variety of methodologies, including:

High-frequency grid measurements

To study grid-level outcomes, this evaluation will use data obtained from grid monitors placed directly on the electricity network. In addition, smart meters installed in households and business will provide high frequency data on energy consumption and outages. This innovative approach will ensure nearly continuous data, allowing the evaluation to estimate the impacts of multiple interventions implemented over time.

  • An Interrupted Time Series (ITS) design that will use high frequency data collected from monitors placed throughout the grid to examine grid-level outcomes, such as outages and voltage fluctuations.
  • Another ITS design that will use high-frequency mobile phone surveys of households and businesses to estimate impacts on outcomes that might change quickly, such as outages, energy use, costs and losses.
  • A pre-post approach that will use baseline, interim, and final surveys to create a longitudinal panel of businesses and households to estimate changes in longer-term outcomes such as equipment degradation and adult and child time use.
  • A mixed-methods approach that will combine qualitative and descriptive analyses to examine whether outside factors have reduced or amplified the effect of compact investments.
  • An optional randomized control trial that will leverage 10,000 planned new connections for an impact evaluation of strategies to encourage new household connections to the grid.

 This evaluation is one of the first to measure the impact of electricity generation and distribution improvements on grid-level outcomes such as outages and voltage fluctuations. It will also complement the existing literature on the household and business-level impacts of electrification in rural areas by providing evidence from urban areas. The findings from this nine-year evaluation are likely to be of interest to donors and policymakers seeking to improve the quality and reliability of electricity in developing countries.