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Research priorities

The IGC supports research focused on four themes:

State: This theme investigates how to improve the capacity of the public sector in developing countries to effectively deliver public goods and services that support economic growth. This includes issues such as governance and public sector management, public finance and taxation, political economy, and conflict.

Firms: This theme aims to generate knowledge related to firm capabilities and job creation. This work covers all types of firms: large, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and farms, in both formal and informal sectors. Research topics include the determinants of firm productivity and policies to stimulate trade.

Cities: This theme explores what makes cities effective centres of economic prosperity, addressing both the drivers of and constraints to growth. Issues include the economics of agglomeration, improving infrastructure and service provision, building affordable housing markets, and migration.

Energy: This theme focuses on the significant role that access to reliable energy plays in shaping the growth paths of developing countries. Topics include improving access to and quality of energy services for households and firms, rural electrification, energy efficiency, and the effects of energy consumption on health and the environment.

For more detailed information on research priorities by theme and country, please use the filters below. All applicants are strongly encouraged to view the global priorities, as well as those related to the country/s they are interested in.

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  • Financial sustainability in the electricity sector

    Zambia faces serious electricity supply shortages, made more serious by aging energy infrastructure and prolonged drought. At the same time, tariffs are among the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Not surprisingly, Zambia’s electricity sector is in a financial crisis. Low tariffs also discourage private investment in the sector, limiting growth in generation capacity.

    Relevant research will contribute to understanding the factors (institutional, policy, and management) impacting the current state of the sector and approaches to improving financial sustainability. Possible topics include approaches to lowering costs and improving revenue recovery including politically acceptable approaches to raising tariffs.

  • Impacts of the improvements in the reliability of the grid, especially for firms

  • Political economy and governance

    The governance, political economy and institutions of the energy sector in Tanzania. Including the political economy of hydrocarbons, infrastructure decisions, use of resource rents, and pricing; the role of development assistance, foreign investment, and state aid from non-traditional donors in the energy sector.

  • Energy demand

    Assessments of rural and urban energy demands; willingness to pay; the causes and consequences of household energy consumption using petrol generators, LNG gas, charcoal etc.; the impact of off grid solar and other renewables on outcomes such as household production, education etc.

  • Energy supply

    Tanzania faces the common dilemma of attracting investment to an uncertain energy market. Key issues of interest: cost and investment return modelling for energy infrastructure; productivity models of rural energy infrastructure, agricultural production and processing, and smallholder manufacturing; investment decision for independent power producers; impact of public energy investment projects; off grid production and micro-grids.

  • Welfare effects of electrification around planned grid expansion and off-grid efforts

  • Natural resource management in Mozambique

    Over the past decade significant reserves of natural resources have been discovered in Mozambique, including large quantities of coal and natural gas. This constitutes a fundamental game-changer for the Mozambican economy. Identifying the right policies to manage natural resources is a major challenge for Mozambique today.

  • Improving grid services and cost recovery

    One of the challenges of building a secure and reliable power grid in the emerging economies is tariff under-recovery: tariffs are generally not cost reflective and many consumers default. As a result utilities lack adequate financial resources to maintain and upgrade the power grid, which in turn, provides a pretence for some consumer groups to default or resist necessary tariff reviews.

     

    We will therefore support innovative and policy relevant research proposals which look into the area of tariff recovery and improved grid services.

  • Technical and behavioural energy efficiency

    It is widely acknowledged that energy efficiency technologies and measures have high social and private benefits. The government of Ghana has rolled out a number of measures to promote energy efficiency technologies such as the introduction of LED bulbs and the refrigerator rebate. Currently the government is operating a policy regime where only appliances that meet minimum efficiency and performance standards are allowed into the market. However, the environmental and economic impacts of these interventions have not been consistently evaluated.

     

    IGC Ghana will support proposals which seek to vigorously evaluate the social and private net benefits of such interventions, the findings of which could be used to underpin further interventions either in Ghana or elsewhere.

     

    In addition, we are interested in studies which explore insights from behavioural economics to “nudge” energy efficiency and conservation further in Ghana.

  • The economics of under-grid and off-grid rural electrification in Ghana

    At 80%, Ghana has one of the highest accesses to electricity in Africa. In addition to the grid expansion, the Ministry of Power is piloting mini-grid electrification projects on a number of remote Islands with plans to roll out further mini-grid projects in the future.

     

    We are interested in two strands of research on rural electrification. First, we would like research to shed light on the economics and policy implications of extending electricity to the “under grid” households, (i.e. households which, per definition, have access but are not connected to the grid).

     

    The second strand relates to mini-grid electrification projects. We are interested in research projects which will work closely with officials of the Ministry of Power to study the impacts of mini-grid electrification on wealth and employment outcomes of the Island communities.

  • The economic cost of unserved electricity

    In a span of three decades, Ghana experienced five episodes of power crises with increasing duration and severity. The government together with various stakeholders is working to arrest the situation. However, the first step in determining the optimal level grid expansion and tolerable level and durations of power outages is an understanding of the socio-economic costs of unserved energy.

     

    IGC Ghana will appreciate studies which estimate the costs of unserved energy to the various sectors and to the economy as a whole.

  • Renewable sources of energy in the power generation

    In order to meet the energy requirements to maintain the economic growth momentum – approximately GDP 7%, there is need to understand the optimal combination of renewable and non-renewable sources of energy generation. Development of a framework for long term energy security to support sustainable growth is needed.

  • The impact and sustainability of off-grid solutions (e.g. solar, wind and mini-hydro power plants) and understanding the rural energy mix in Zambia

    The electrification programmes currently being implemented include off-grid solutions such as solar and mini-hydro power plants. Research in this area might consider the impact of these systems thus far in terms of benefits for the community and their sustainability and potential to link to grid connections.

    Electrification rates in Zambia remain extremely low, particularly in rural areas. Research into the fuel sources that sustain households and firms in rural areas, and how local energy markets can be improved to meet the needs of firms and households is therefore needed. Topics of interest include both alternative and traditional fuels, as well as the costs associated with different energy sources.

    Studies in this area should also consider the current institutional capacity to deliver on the ambitious electrification plans and the effectiveness of coordination amongst relevant institutions.

  • The impact of access and availability of electricity on firm productivity, and education and health outputs and outcomes

    Limited evidence exists on the impact of access to electricity in Zambia on relevant outcomes such as productivity of firms, employment, education outcomes and household health. Further research on this topic would help inform future policy design and facilitate better-targeted programmes.

  • Approaches for the promotion of electricity access for households, small businesses and social institutions (schools, clinics, etc.)

    The Rural Electrification Authority and the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) are currently implementing a number of electrification programmes. Research questions investigating pricing structures and strategies, poverty impact as well as the influence more broadly of recent power shortages on consumer willingness to connect, are considered priorities.

    Studies in this area should also consider the current institutional capacity to deliver on the ambitious electrification plans and the degree of coordination amongst relevant institutions.

  • What impacts will the regional power pool have, and are the planned investments in transmission adequate?

    With large hydropower dams in construction and generation capacity almost doubling by 2019, the most pressing (but not the only) questions in Uganda’s energy sector evolve around distribution and transmission. What impact(s) will the regional power pool have on lessening the percentage of the population, with no access to electricity?

  • Does Uganda underinvest in energy efficiency measures?

    Increasing energy efficiency would allow serving more customers with the same generation capacity. Does the current pricing structure incentivise consumers according to this trade-off? What can the government do to achieve the right level of energy efficiency investments nationwide?

  • Rural electrification: Willingness to pay and the social rate of return

    Rural consumers’ willingness and ability to pay for electricity is low and yet research has shown that electricity access increases productivity, improves education and health outcomes. Subsidizing access and/or consumption of electricity for the rural population can therefore form part of the formula to enable poverty reduction and economic growth. Unfortunately, evidence required to fine-tune government schemes for rural electrification is scarce. On the demand side, several important variables require more research: (i) The rural population’s willingness to pay for connections and consumption and (ii) The benefits expected from subsidizing these consumers (the social rate of return).

  • Modelling Uganda’s energy demand and the least cost electrification strategy

    Costs of transmission and generation depend on various factors in the local environment. Calibrating a sophisticated model of local demand and supply yields an essential tool to calculate least-cost electrification strategies. Such a model would allow systematic comparison of different assumptions, technologies, and the build-up of scenarios.

  • Macroeconomic management

    Macroeconomic policymakers are increasingly focused on how monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies should be set to manage expected future natural resource revenues. At the same time, government is under pressure to borrow against future resource revenues to finance infrastructure investment. What lessons do the experiences of other recently resource-rich economies offer to help understand the debt management and macroeconomic policymaking challenges presented by large but uncertain natural resource wealth? Is there scope for greater regional macroeconomic policy coordination?

  • Global and national prospects and risks; comparative studies

    The large economies of East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique) have all embarked on major programmes of natural resource exploration and production. The decline in global commodity prices, combined with increased supply from other natural resource plays around the world, has changed the outlook for East African oil and gas, including by pushing ‘final investment decision’ dates further into the future. What are the implications of this changing outlook for national and regional initiatives in the sector?

  • Improving energy access and efficiency

  • How to prioritise the grid roll-out, and investments in off-grid energy?

  • What is the role and impact of off-grid versus on-grid energy in Rwanda?

  • How can Rwanda most efficiently deliver affordable, reliable, energy to boost firm productivity?

  • Effective planning for energy infrastructure in Mozambique

    Mozambique has access to enormous hydropower resources, including the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi River. Yet, one of the most often cited constraints to growth by the private sector is the quality and reliability of energy access. Research on effective planning for energy infrastructure can pave the way for fundamental policy change in this area.

  • The Economic cost of unserved electricity

    In a span of three decades, Ghana experienced five episodes of power crises with increasing duration and severity. The government together with various stakeholders is working to arrest the situation. However, the first step in determining the optimal level grid expansion and tolerable level and durations of power outages is an understanding of the socio-economic costs of unserved energy.

    IGC Ghana will appreciate studies which estimate the costs of unserved energy to the various sectors and to the economy as a whole.

  • Adressing challenges related to governance, efficiency, access, and renewables in the energy sector

    The large energy subsidy is the principal component of the ballooning fiscal deficit, and energy shortages have retarded economic growth. The solution lies in addressing governance challenges to curtail theft in order to improve billing collection. Another important area is the fuel mix that requires changing relative prices to reallocate fuel to its optimal use. This will help make the provision of energy financially viable which, in turn will attract investment, improve access and promote economic growth.

    IGC Pakistan reflecting this change in focus, will support analytical work to promote evidence based policy making in energy.

  • Welfare effects of electrification around planned grid expansion and off-grid efforts

  • Power sector market structure

    Effects of state enterprises, limited competition; role of electricity markets

  • Pricing electricity

    Balancing willingness to pay with social costs of generation; improving reliability and quality of supply

  • Rural electrification

    Accessing electricity (covering costs, organisational challenges); measuring demand for electricity; welfare and economic effects of electrification

  • Mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce adverse climate change impacts

    Bangladesh situated in the lower Gangetic delta is highly vulnerable to climatic changes. Migration due to climatic changes along the coastal belt, delayed monsoon, rise in temperature in urban areas etc. have started to be manifest all over the country.

  • Developing power trading markets within Bangladesh and among South Asian countries

    In recent years, the expansion of generation capacity along with expansion of transmission and distribution networks helped achieve considerable progress for power sector –to 13280 MW in Oct 2016 (BPDB).

     

    Notwithstanding this progress, there are major areas of concern in the power and primary energy sector. Framework to initiate intra-agency and cross border power trade will be helpful. Similarly improving efficiency in power generation through unbundling of the different components of power production – generation, transmission and distribution will help attract public–private partnership investments in the sector.

  • Rural electrification

    Although electrification has enormous potential to support transformative growth in rural areas, connecting rural areas to electricity often entails some acute challenges. These areas typically face low willingness (or ability) to pay, low population density, and high costs of infrastructure investments and operation. The IGC is interested in exploring solutions to support the electricity needs of households and businesses in rural areas, including distributed energy systems and mini-grids.

  • Minimizing the external costs of energy consumption

    Large increases in energy consumption in developing countries have led to negative side effects, including increased pollution and environmental degradation. These pollutants can be very harmful to peoples’ health and welfare, but there is often low willingness to invest in reducing these negative externalities. The IGC would like to explore the effects of energy consumption on health, welfare, pollution and climate change, as well as the regulatory structures and evidence-based policy strategies that can be effective in promoting investments to reduce these effects.

  • Energy efficiency measures and technologies

    There is often underinvestment in energy efficiency measures and technologies, despite their potential social and private gains. Of particular interest are the best methods to encourage investments in efficient energy, and the barriers and challenges to large scale renewable energy growth.

  • Increasing access and quality of energy services in developing countries

    This research area addresses the linked questions of how to build demand for reliable electricity services and how to incentivize better service from the supply side. The IGC is especially interested in research that focuses on improving grid services. We are also interested in examining cost-effective off-grid solutions including mini-grids for rural households and firms, including how these measures can support longer-term solutions and how uptake of electricity can be encouraged once connections are established. In particular, we support research that explores ways to incentivize industrial and domestic consumers to pay for the energy they use, in order to help generate revenues for improving quality and expanding access. Understanding pricing and the willingness to pay for reliable access is critical here. We want to examine how energy policy can be designed to reduce non-payment and to prevent electricity losses and theft. This may include strategies to shift social norms and expectations around payment, either with carrots (service quality, easier payment modes) or sticks (disconnections).