Power generation projects, which have to sell their power to these bankrupt utilities, require creative financing structures to get around these problems. In a bid to reduce their risk when financing these projects, bankers employ financial tools like put call options agreement or World Bank partial risk guarantees. The problem is these tools add complexity and cost which end up being passed on to the end-user or worsen the financial state of the power utility.
Even though customers in deregulated cities routinely pay more for electricity, there is a bright spot. The gap between the average price paid for electricity between deregulated cities like Houston and regulated cities like San Antonio have dwindled to the narrowest point ever to 8.8 percent. Back in 2006, customers in deregulated cities were paying nearly 47 percent more for electricity than their counterparts in regulated cities.
For example, in 2012, Hawaii residents had the highest average residential electricity rate in the United States (37.34¢/kWh), while Louisiana residents had the lowest average residential electricity costs (8.37¢/kWh). Even in the contiguous United States the gap is significant, with New York residents having the highest average residential electricity rates in the lower 48 U.S. states (17.62¢/kWh).
July 2018 data, the latest available, show that the average U.S. price – 13.12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) – was down 0.7% compared with a year ago. If you live in Louisiana, you pay the lowest average residential electricity rates of any state in the country – 9.37 cents per kWh. The next lowest rate is in Washington, where residents pay an average of 9.79 cents per kWh.
Why are so many African power utilities effectively bankrupt? For one thing, they are incredibly inefficient. Efficiency can be improved by proper metering, investing in the system to reduce losses, improving collections and being able to cut off non-payers. This last one being easier if there is up-to-date metering and certain big players like government departments and military installations are also forced to obey the rules. These operational improvements and efficiencies will improve the supply of power but will not go far enough.
Canadian electricity is cheap at 10 US cents per kilowatt hour, which is reflected in their high average electricity usage. US electricity prices at 0.12 $/kWh are also quite cheap internationally. In India and China they are very cheap. The UK is in the middle at 20 cents. It’s relatively expensive globally but not too bad for Europe, where most countries pay a high share of tax on their power.
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Texas deregulated most of the state's electricity markets in 2002, a move aimed at lowering electricity costs by letting consumers choose their own electric power providers and their own plans. Some parts of Texas continued to be regulated, including those whose power is proved by municipally-owned utilities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities that operate outside the state's primary power grid.
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The problem is that across Africa, the vast majority of the power utilities are effectively bankrupt. Another World Bank study (pdf) on African Utilities shows that only two of the 39 African utilities surveyed, in the Seychelles and Uganda, were able to generate enough cash to cover both their operating costs and capital expenditures necessary to invest in the maintenance and expansion of the grid. In fact, only 19 of the 39 companies were able to generate enough cash to cover their day-to-day operating costs. It means the rest were not even able to pay everyday costs, like salaries, in full.
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There are many reasons for this but I’d like to focus on African power utilities. Power utilities are a very important part of the chain for delivering electrical power to end users. One of their key roles is to purchase power that has been generated by others, sell it on to end-users and to collect revenues. They are vital for extending grid-based power to consumers and to ensure regular and efficient power supply. As they collect money from end-users and pay it on to other players in the system, they are also vital in ensuring money flows through the entire power sector.
The inclusion of renewable energy distributed generation and AMI in the modern electricity grid has introduced many alternative rate structures. Simple (or fixed) rate, tiered (or step) rate, TOU, demand rates, tiered within TOU, seasonal, and weekend/holiday rates are among the few residential rate structures offered by modern utilities. The simple rate charges a specific dollar per kilowatt ($/kWh) consumed. The tiered rate is one of the more common residential rate programs, and it charges a higher rate as customer usage increases. TOU and demand rates are structured to help maintain/control a utility’s peak demand. The concept at its core is to discourage customers from contributing to peak-load times by charging them more money to use power at that time.
Electricity pricing (sometimes referred to as electricity tariff or the price of electricity) varies widely from country to country and may vary significantly from locality to locality within a particular country. Many factors go into determining an electricity tariff, such as the price of power generation, government subsidies, local weather patterns, transmission and distribution infrastructure, and industry regulation. “Electricity prices generally reflect the cost to build, finance, maintain, and operate power plants and the electricity grid.” Some utilities are for-profit, and their prices will also include a financial return for shareholders and owners. Electricity tariffs vary by type of customer, typically by residential, commercial, and industrial connections. Electricity price forecasting is the method by which a generator, utility company, or large industrial consumer can predict the wholesale prices of electricity with reasonable accuracy. The cost to supply electricity varies minute by minute.
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You betcha! Most Texas electricity suppliers offer plans that include a percentage of energy sourced from renewable resources, such as hydro power, wind power and solar power. Some are totally sourced that way. These plans are a great way for Texas energy customers to help the environment without breaking the bank. In addition to green energy plans, many Texas suppliers give customers the option to purchase renewable energy certificates, or RECs, that further offset customers’ carbon emissions. The purchase of RECs also helps fund research and usage of renewable energy sources, so that Texas can stay at the forefront of eco-friendly power technology.
While there is a very strong argument for providing cheap, subsidized power for the poorest in society, this should be done in a way that limits subsidies to the really deserving and the system as a whole needs to be able to charge tariffs that on average cover all costs. If this doesn’t happen then all manner of bad things will follow. As you might guess prices have been set too low by African governments. These subsidies have also been made too widely available, benefitting the elite and middle classes more than the poor (who, not having good access to the grid in the first place, don’t have ready access to these subsidies).
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