Research Associate - Smart Metering Evaluation, Haryana - J-PAL South Asia
The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) seeks qualified applicants for positions as Research Associates for projects on agriculture, education, environment, finance, health, labor, and governance in locations around the world. The projects study a variety of topics within the previously listed fields. The positions offer an opportunity to gain first-hand field management experience in an organization undertaking cutting-edge development research. These positions are located primarily in developing countries around the world and the principal investigators are J-PAL affiliated professors.
Over a billion people in the developing world are not connected to the grid at all, and hundreds of millions more, once connected to the grid, get only erratic supply. A fundamental reason for this gap is that in many developing countries energy is viewed as a right, as opposed to a private good. The consequence is that theft and non-payment are widespread and electricity distribution companies lose money on each kilowatt-hour sold. The distribution companies are not given unlimited public subsidies, so their only solution is to limit the supply of electricity to those on the grid and make it hard for those off the grid to get connected. These actions are given technical names, like load shedding, but at root, the social norm that electricity is a right has the perverse effect of choking off access to electricity for many hundreds of millions of people.
This project will evaluate the ability of technology, in the form of smart metering with pre-payment, to break the above cycle of low-payment leading to restricted and low-quality supply that in turn causes consumers to feel justified in making incomplete payments. Smart metering and pre-payment specifically have several beneficial features, such as lowering transactions and monitoring costs and perhaps reducing liquidity constraints (Jack and Smith, 2015; 2016). There is also a growing literature on the consumer response to real-time pricing, which smart metering enables (e.g. Faruqui and Sergici, 2010; Wolak 2010). However, there are no credible evaluations on the crucial point—can a technological intervention change norm, incentives, and payment, and thereby improve reliability and access, even in a high-theft environment?
While there have been great strides in smart metering, it is not clear that metering alone can reduce theft if the fundamental problem is collusion between collection agents and utility customers, at the expense of power suppliers. Our study (PIs: Prof. Michael Greenstone, Prof. Robin Burgess, Prof. Nicholas Ryan and Dr. Anant Sudarshan) would conduct a large-scale neighborhood level randomized-control trial to answer this question in a critical developing country setting, working jointly on implementation with state distribution utilities.
Research Associate Roles and Responsibilities:
The RA will work closely with academic researchers and other field staff to perform a variety tasks including, but not limited to:
- Overseeing implementation of the evaluation in accordance to the research design, in association with our partner organization.
- Designing survey questionnaires, conducting qualitative research, conducting quantitative analysis of real time incoming consumer billing data and refining surveying instruments.
- Managing field teams: Recruit, train, and supervise both field-based and data operations teams consisting of project assistants, field managers, field-based surveyors, data entry operators and other field and office staff.
- Maintaining relationships with partner organizations at both headquarters and field levels Supervising data collection and data-entry, and ensuring data quality and productivity.
- Assisting with data cleaning, preliminary data analysis, and preparation of documents and presentations for dissemination.
- Reporting to PIs on all of the above mentioned activities.
Desired Qualifications and Experience:
- A Bachelor’s degree in Economics (or related field) or Engineering
- At least 1 year of work experience is desired but not necessary
- Prior experience with field data collection is desired but not necessary
- Familiarity with impact evaluations and randomized controlled trials is required
- Excellent management and organizational skills along with strong quantitative skills
- Fluency in Hindi and English and strong communication skills are required.
- Flexible, self-motivating, able to manage multiple tasks efficiently, and a team player
- Willingness to live in Haryana and travel extensively to study areas
- Basic knowledge of STATA or other data analysis tool
- Master’s degree in economics, engineering or related disciplines is preferred
- Experience living in a developing country and/or liaising with government officials is a strongly desired but not necessary
- Proficiency in STATA (or other tools such as R, SPSS etc.) is desired
- Demonstrated ability to manage high-level relationships with partner organizations
We are looking for a commitment period of one year for this position.