Measuring power outages in Ghana using satellite imagery

Policy brief Energy

  • Ghana recently experienced an extreme power crisis, which peaked in 2015, leading to substantial economic, social, and political problems.
  • Despite the widespread impacts of the crisis, there is no reliable data on the variation in power supply quality across Ghana over this period.
  • Our project estimates geographic variation in power outages using the Power Supply Irregularity (PSI) index: It identifies excess variability in night-time light output across all nightly images captured by satellites during each calendar year.
  • Starting from 2012, there is a substantial increase in PSI levels across much of Ghana. Overall PSI levels peak in 2016 but decline in 2017. The highest PSI levels are observed in urban neighbourhoods.
  • By 2017, improvements in power supply quality were most pronounced in areas with both high levels of power outages and large numbers of voters who supported the winning party in the December 2016 presidential election.
  • Policy makers should effort in improving access to power supply data, enhance transparency in power outage scheduling, and increase research on the impacts of power outages.