Schaffitzel, F., Jakob, M., Soria, R., Vogt-Schilb, A., Ward, H.
Can government transfers make energy subsidy reform socially acceptable? A case study on Ecuador
in Energy Policy, 24.12.2019
Peer Review , Climate and Development
Energy subsidies cost Ecuador 7% of its public budget, or two thirds of the fiscal deficit. Removing these subsidies would yield local economic and environmental benefits and help implement climate targets set in the Paris Agreement. However, adverse effects on vulnerable households can make subsidy reforms politically difficult. To inform policy design, we assess the distributional impacts of energy subsidy reform using Ecuadorian household data and an augmented input-output table. We find that subsidy removal without compensation would be regressive for diesel and LPG, progressive for gasoline, and approximately neutral for electricity. We then analyze how freed up public revenues could fund in-kind and in-cash compensation schemes to mitigate income losses for poor households. Our results indicate that removing all energy subsidies and increasing the cash transfer program, Bono de Desarrollo Humano (BDH), by nearly US$ 50 per month would increase the real income of the poorest quintile by 10% while leaving more than US$ 1.3 billion for the public budget. Finally, we conduct interviews with local policy makers and experts to identify two reform options that are progressive and considered feasible: eliminating subsidies on gasoline while increasing the BDH and replacing universal LPG subsidies with targeted LPG vouchers.