The Socio-Economic Effects of Access to Electricity: Evidence from a Community-Based Micro Hydro Project in Kenya

Last registered on April 09, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

The Socio-Economic Effects of Access to Electricity: Evidence from a Community-Based Micro Hydro Project in Kenya
Initial registration date
April 08, 2020

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 09, 2020, 10:59 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

McGill University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
One billion people on earth currently have no electricity. This project studies an off-grid community-based micro-hydro project in Kenya. Community members contribute themselves in labor and finance towards the generation and distribution of 100 watts per client-household who pay no connection fee and a minimal recurrent monthly fee. To measure the causal effects of access to electricity, a randomly selected group of customers is connected at first, while a control group will be connected at a later date. This paper presents the pre-analysis plan for this study.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Chemin, Matthieu. 2020. "The Socio-Economic Effects of Access to Electricity: Evidence from a Community-Based Micro Hydro Project in Kenya." AEA RCT Registry. April 09.
Experimental Details


The project is situated in Kianyaga, 3 hours north of Nairobi, in rural Kenya. In line with the very low electrification rates in sub-Saharan Africa, very few people in this community have electricity. The community thus decided to generate their own electricity. The community contributed in labor and finance to build their own dam (on a nearby small river with a good flow on the slopes of Mount Kenya) and power house. Rather than using an expensive and technologically advanced micro-hydro turbine, the local community is using an innovative and simple strategy to generate power: a water pump set up in a reverse way as a turbine. The idea is simple: when electricity is fed in water pumps, they move water. When water is fed into water pumps (thus using the water pump in a reverse way), they generate electricity. Though simple, the idea is powerful: pumps are cheap, simple to operate, and the technology is already available in this community (and in much of sub-Saharan Africa). Since 2018, a water pump set up in a reverse way is generating 13 kilowatts of power, without interruptions.

The plan is to connect 130 households with 100 Watts (thus, 130 households * 100 watts=13 kilowatts). Each customer will face no connection fee, and will pay a nominal 2$ per month to be used for: 1) maintenance of the project, 2) dividends for shareholder if any leftover amount and agreement on a division in shareholder's meeting, and 3) expansion to other sites if any leftover amount.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
6 Primary outcomes

With 100 watts, households can power 6 energy savings lamps, a TV, or a computer. It can be enough to power small businesses such as a charging mobile station, a barber shop, or an egg incubator. It can power lights to operate an existing business for longer hours. Hundred watts cannot power larger electrical appliances, such as large fridges, stove, ovens or agricultural tools such as electrical mills for grains, which all require thousands of watts. One can also imagine households spending more time watching TV. Therefore, the main question is whether 100 watts is enough to kick start a process of economic development.

To verify these effects, the following outcomes will be used.

6.1 Energy savings and uses

Households may save on other forms of energy. We will test this hypothesis by collecting an energy profile for each household:

• Over the past month, how much did the household spend on (KsH)? (en48) Charcoal (en49) Wood (en50) Paraffin / kerosine (en51) Car battery charging (en52) Cell phone charging (en53) Solar (en54) Petrol (en55) LPG (en56) Batteries for torches, other devices…

Secondary outcomes will look at: use of electricity, access to other sources of electricity, aspirations with electricity.

6.2 Business Creation

The primary outcomes are:

• (bu01) Does the household head and / or spouse run a business?

• (bu24) In the last year, has the profit of your business gone up or down?

• (bu18) When starting up a business, what do you think are the main difficulties?

Secondary outcomes will look at the nature of the business (partnership), employment in the business, investment in the business (land, buildings, machinery, fixed assets)

6.3 Employment versus Leisure

An open empirical question is whether households spend more time working or increase their leisure:

• A time-use survey disaggregates time spent on: (tu1) Shamba work (farming, tending animals, etc…) (tu2) Household Chores: Cooking meals, Cleaning the house, Fetching firewood, Fetching water for home use, etc… (tu3) Washing clothes (tu5) Shopping (tu9) Any time spent with children (including helping with homework) (tu11) Non-farm paid work (tu13) Listening to Radio or Watching TV (tu14) Radio/TV: Music? (tu15) Radio/TV: News? (tu16) Radio/TV: Education Program? (tu17) Watching / Listening to household TV / Radio ? (tu18) Watching / Listening to homestead TV / Radio ? (tu19) Watching / Listening other (not homestead, household) TV / Radio?

Secondary outcomes will be:

• Time spent on phones and computers: (tu24) Does […] have a mobile phone with internet access (Smartphone) ? (tu25) Yesterday, how much time (in minutes) did [...] spend on their Smartphone? (tu30) Does […] access the internet at least once a week? (tu31) Last week, how much time (in hours) did [...] spend on the internet (Smartphone, Tablet, Computer, etc…)? (tu32) Internet: News? (tu33) Internet: Social Media/Email? (tu34) Internet: Educational? (tu35) Internet: Games? (tu36) Internet: Other? (tu37) Does […] access a computer at least once a week for non-internet related activities? (tu38) Last week, how much time (in hours) did [...] spend doing non-internet activities on a computer?

• Total income from all sources (business, farm, formal sector work, casual work)

• Days worked

• Number of days missed from work/school/daily duties

• How many hours does the HH family spend each week watching TV? (by type: news, education, entertainment)

6.4 Schooling

• Number of days missed from work/school/daily duties

• Number of hours spent on homework (during daytime? At night?)

• Grade of students
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
7 Secondary Outcomes

7.1 Access to Credit

Access to electricity may unleash business potential and investment financed by credit. The primary outcomes are:

• In the last 12 months, did you borrow any money from ...? (disaggregated by sources: a ROSCA/Merry-go-round; Informal sources: friends, family, employer, landlord; Formal financial institution: bank, SACCO, government agency)

Secondary outcomes will look at total debt from these sources, interest rate on this loan, use of funds, collateral.

7.2 Savings

Savings may increase to reinvest in the business. The primary outcomes are:

• Total amount of savings, disaggregated by sources: Formal financial institution (NSSF, bank, SACCO, post office, etc.); ROSCA\Merry-Go-Round savings; loans given out to others; M-PESA savings.

7.3 Agricultural investments

Households may use electricity to invest on their plot with powered devices:

• In the past three months, how much of the following inputs did you use on each plot? (f700a) Posho Mill (Electric) (f700b) Incubator for Poultry (f700a) Electric cutter for grass, feed for cattle (f771) Mechanical inputs (f772) Other non-labour farm inputs

Secondary outcomes will look at days worked on plot, investment on plot, agricultural production.

7.4 Access to information

Access to information may improved with electricity.

• In the last week, which of the following did you use to learn about what was going on in the country (sl30) Daily Newspaper (sl32) News broadcasts on radio/TV (sl36) Internet: news sites (sl38) Internet: social media (sl40) Talk with friends or colleagues

7.5 Attitudes

We will look at religion and religiosity, participation in elections, social capital (social capital may decrease with electricity if people spend more time watching TV), stress (Perceived Stress Scale: PSS-10 survey), safety in homestead, trust, attitudes towards women.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The plan is to distribute electricity in a randomized way. A baseline questionnaire on 260 households living around the generation site and interested in getting electricity has already been collected in 2016. Individual randomization has already been completed to select 130 households. Up to now, 60 households have already been connected. An endline questionnaire will be collected after all households have been connected for at least one year.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
In office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Household level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
260 households
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
130 treated and 130 controls.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
McGill University Research Ethics Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


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