A common argument for the lack of economic reform in developing countries is popular opposition. If current economic policies are dysfunctional, could information about alternatives sway the voters? We examine if a simple argument emphasizing the need to increase electricity prices for improved supply can change public opinion in the case of India’s power sector reforms. The evidence comes from a survey experiment in rural Uttar Pradesh, which is both India’s largest state and has one of the lowest levels of household electrification. As expected, people respond to information about the relationship between electricity pricing, capacity investment, and reliability of supply by increasing their support for higher prices. However, no corresponding increase is observed for privatization of electricity generation. For external validity, we analyze an existing national survey on electricity privatization conducted in 2004/2005, finding patterns that support our argument.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
See http://cercind.gov.in/08022007/Act-with-amendment.pdf for the full text of the 2003 Electricity Act. Accessed on November 19, 2012.
See http://www.powermin.nic.in/JSP_SERVLETS/internal.jsp for the Ministry of Power’s website on rural electrification. Accessed on July 24, 2013.
“Executive Summary Shahjahanpur District.” See http://www.icssr.org/Executive%20Summary%20-%20Shahjahanpur.pdf. Accessed on March 18, 2014.
Aklin M, Urpelainen J (2013) Debating clean energy: frames, counter frames, and audiences. Glob Environ Change 23(5):1225–1232
Aklin M, Bayer P, Harish SP, Urpelainen J (2013) Understanding environmental policy preferences: new evidence from Brazil. Ecol Econ 96:28–36
Alvarez RM, Brehm J (2002) Hard choices, easy answers: values, information, and American public opinion. Princeton University Press, Princeton
Bacon RW, Besant-Jones J (2001) Global electric power reform, privatization, and liberalization of the electric power industry in developing countries. Annu Rev Energy Environ 26:331–359
Baker A (2003) Why is trade reform so popular in Latin America? A consumption-based theory of trade policy preferences. World Polit 55(3):423–455
Barabas J, Jerit J (2010) Are survey experiments externally valid? Am Polit Sci Rev 104(2):226–242
Bhattacharya S, Patel UR (2007) The power sector in India: an inquiry into the efficacy of the reform process. India Policy Forum 4(1):211–283
Bose RK, Shukla M, Srivastava L, Yaron G (2006) Cost of unserved power in Karnataka, India. Energy Policy 34(12):1434–1447
Cabraal RA, Barnes DF, Agarwal SG (2005) Productive uses of energy for rural development. Annu Rev Environ Resour 30:117–144
Cukierman A, Tommasi M (1998) When does it take a Nixon to go to China? Am Econ Rev 88(1):180–197
Denisova I, Eller M, Frye T, Zhuravskaya E (2012) Everyone hates privatization, but why? Survey evidence from 28 post-communist countries. J Comp Econ 40(1):44–61
Desai S, Dubey A, Joshi BL, Sen M, Shariff A, Vanneman R (2007) India human development survey (IHDS). University of Maryland and National Council of Applied Economic Research
Dinkelman T (2011) The effects of rural electrification on employment: new evidence from South Africa. Am Econ Rev 101(7):3078–3108
Dossani R (2004) Reorganization of the power distribution sector in India. Energy Policy 32(11):1277–1289
Drèze J, Sen AK (2002) India: development and participation, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, New York
Dubash NK (2003) Revisiting electricity reform: the case for a sustainable development approach. Util Policy 11(3):143–154
Dubash NK, Rao ND (2008) Regulatory practice and politics: lessons from independent regulation in Indian electricity. Util Policy 16(4):321–331
Dubash NK, Rajan SC (2001) Power politics: process of power sector reform in India. Econ Polit Wkly 36:3367–3390
Fernandez R, Rodrik D (1991) Resistance to reform: status quo bias in the presence of individual-specific uncertainty. Am Econ Rev 81(5):1146–1155
Ghosh S (2002) Electricity consumption and economic growth in India. Energy Policy 30(2):125–129
Government of India (2011a) 2011 Census Report, Houselisting and Housing Census Data Highlights. http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011census/hlo/hlo_highlights.html. Accessed 17 July 2014
Government of India (2011b) Annual Report on the Working of State Power Utilities and Electricity Departments, 2011–2012. See http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/esswpaper/id_3a4817.htm. Accessed 22 March 2014
Hainmueller J, Hiscox MJ (2006) Learning to love globalization: education and individual attitudes toward international trade. Int Organ 60(2):469–498
Hansen CJ, Bower J (2003) Political economy of electricity reform: a case study in Gujarat, India. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies Working Paper
Jenkins R (1999) Democratic politics and economic reform in India. Cambridge University Press, New York
Jerit J, Barabas J (2006) Bankrupt rhetoric: how misleading information affects knowledge about social security. Public Opin Q 70(3):278–303
Joseph KL (2010) The politics of power: electricity reform in India. Energy Policy 38(1):503–511
Lal S (2006) Can good economics ever be good politics? case study of India’s power sector. World Bank Working Paper 83
Levine MD, Koomey JG, Price L, Geller H, Nadel S (1995) Electricity end-use efficiency: experience with technologies, markets, and policies throughout the world. Energy 20(1):37–61
Lippman W (1922) Public opinion. Macmillan, New York
Prior M, Lupia A (2008) Money, time, and political knowledge: distinguishing quick recall and political learning skills. Am J Polit Sci 52(1):169–183
Thillai Rajan A (2000) Power sector reform in Orissa: an ex-post analysis of the causal factors. Energy Policy 28(10):657–669
Sanghvi AP (1983) Optimal electricity supply reliability using customer shortage costs. Energy Econ 5(2):129–136
Santhakumar V (2003) Impact of distribution of costs and benefits of non-reform: case study of power sector reforms in Kerala between 1996 and 2000. Econ Polit Wkly 38(2):147–154
Santhakumar V (2008) Analysing social opposition to reforms: the electricity sector in India. Sage, Thousand Oaks
Sharma DP, Nair PSC, Balasubramanian R (2005) Performance of Indian power sector during a decade under restructuring: a critique. Energy Policy 33(4):563–576
Shukla PR, Biswas D, Nag T, Yajnik A, Heller T, Victor DG (2004) Impact of power sector reforms on technology, efficiency and emissions: case study of Andhra Pradesh, India. Stanford University, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper 20
Singh A (2006) Power sector reform in India: current issues and prospects. Energy Policy 34(16):2480–2490
Stokes SC (1996) Public opinion and market reforms: the limits of economic voting. Comp Polit Stud 29(5):499–519
Szakonyi D, Urpelainen J (2013) Electricity sector reform and generators as a source of backup power: the case of India. Energy Sustain Dev 17(5):477–481
Thakur T, Deshmukh SG, Kaushik SC (2006) Efficiency evaluation of the state owned electric utilities in India. Energy Policy 34(17):2788–2804
Thakur T, Deshmukh SG, Kaushik SC, Kulshrestha M (2005) Impact assessment of the Electricity Act 2003 on the Indian power sector. Energy Policy 33(9):1187–1198
Tongia R (2004) The political economy of Indian power sector reforms. Stanford University, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper 4
Varshney A (1998) Mass politics or elite politics? India’s economic reforms in comparative perspective. J Policy Reform 2(4):301–335
Victor DG, Heller TC (eds) (2007) The political economy of power sector reform: the experiences of five major developing countries. Cambridge University Press, New York
Williams JH, Ghanadan R (2006) Electricity reform in developing and transition countries: a reappraisal. Energy 31(6–7):815–844
Yi-chong X (2006) The myth of the single solution: electricity reforms and the World Bank. Energy 31(6–7):802–814
We thank the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) at Columbia University for financial support and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in New Delhi for research support. We thank the Mass Oriented Research and Social Elevation Lab (MORSEL) for conducting the surveys. We are grateful to seminar audiences at Columbia University and CEEW for their thoughts. Patrick Bayer gratefully acknowledges funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for a postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. We are grateful to Catalina Angel for careful proofreading of the manuscript.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Aklin, M., Bayer, P., Harish, S.P. et al. Information and energy policy preferences: a survey experiment on public opinion about electricity pricing reform in rural India. Econ Gov 15, 305–327 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10101-014-0146-5
- Power sector
- Survey experiment
- Rural development