Electricity Access in West Africa

Access to electricity can lead to enhanced education, business, and healthcare opportunities. Governments in emerging economies are often faced with the challenge of increasing access to electricity, while operating under severe budget constraints. I will start by presenting results from a case study of Liberia, in which we maximize the utility of electricity access subject to budget constraints.  We find that a higher preference for equality tends to lead to more transmission, and has surprisingly little impact on solar installations.


I will then  go on to describe a process of stakeholder engagement in Ghana, including surveys, stakeholder workshops, and follow-up interviews. The purpose was to better understand the range of criteria important for electricity decision-making in Ghana. There is a great tension between long term financial sustainability and near term goals. Moreover, while the ultimate priorities seemed to be similar, reliability was more cogent in the less-developed and more remote northern regions. A key suggestion is for better, more inclusive communication with consumers and constituents.


Erin Baker is Associate Dean for Research at the College of Engineering; the Armstrong Professional Development Professor; and Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the Director of the Wind Energy Fellows, a follow-on from the NSF-funded IGERT: Offshore wind energy engineering, environmental impacts, and policy. She has a Ph.D. in Engineering-Economic Systems & Operations Research from the department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, and a B.A. in Mathematics from U.C. Berkeley. Her research is in decision making under uncertainty applied to the field of energy and the environment, with a focus on publically-funded energy technology Research and Development portfolios in the face of climate change. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. E.P.A., NOAA,  the U.S. Department of Energy, the Sloan Foundation and others. She has given invited keynote talks at WINDFARMS in Madrid and the International Energy Workshop in College Park, Maryland. She is on the editorial boards of Energy Economics, and is an Associate Editor of IISE Transactions and Decision Analysis.

Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 4:00pm
Gunness Student Center Conference Room, Marcus Hall