Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

David Conner


Limited access to electricity remains a primary constraint to economic growth and the improvement of livelihoods throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In rural areas, electricity access is especially sparse. The reasons for the scarcity of electricity supply in the region are well documented, with low population density, limited household incomes, and poor regulatory institutions compounding to often make the investment of expanding electricity access result in poor or risky economic returns. However, the declining cost of solar PV and mandates for clean energy development throughout the region have created new channels for bringing electricity supply in potentially more cost-effective ways.Despite these macro trends, understanding the factors that influence adoption of a new technology at the household level remains essential. Without this understanding, policy cannot be properly designed to enable clean, renewable electrification for the millions currently deprived of this basic 21st century resource.

This thesis is composed of two articles. First, an econometric regression model was constructed using the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS) dataset for Tanzania from 2010-11, and 2012-13. Using Innovation Diffusion Theory as a framework for which socioeconomic variables to test, this research assessed several different predicative variables and their effect on household electricity adoption choice: grid-supply, solar-supply, or no-supply. Additionally, the households that changed electricity fuel type between years were assessed both spatially in reference to the Tanzania electric grid, as well descriptively to assess if the Energy Transition Ladder was present within this dataset. The Energy Transition Ladder was present with generally more households moving “up’ the ladder towards grid-based electricity versus no electricity and solar. However, little evidence was found to support that solar electricity was a “step” on the Energy Transition Ladder towards grid-based electricity. The results of the research show that the factors influencing electricity adoption are multivariant, and diverse.

The second article focused on a reflective policy analysis between three different rural electrification and clean energy public policy examples: The Rural Electrification Act of the 1930s in the U.S., contemporary clean energy standards in New York (drawing on the author’s professional experience), and contemporary clean rural electrification efforts in Tanzania. From this reflective analysis key policy constraints were identified, including the increased role the private sector can play in creating renewables in participation with rural electrification efforts. The paper concludes with a summary of lessons learned from past successful electrification policy initiatives, and discussion of implications for future rural electrification projects in sub–Saharan Africa.



Number of Pages

132 p.