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.
The UK has been a net importer of energy for over a decade, and as their generation capacity and reserves decrease the level of importing is reaching an all-time high. Their fuel price's dependence on international markets has a huge effect on the cost of electricity, especially if the exchange rate falls. Being energy dependent makes their electricity prices vulnerable to world events, as well.
Prices for any single class of electricity customer can vary by time-of-day called TOU or time of use or by the capacity or nature of the supply circuit (e.g., 5 kW, 12 kW, 18 kW, 24 kW are typical in some of the large developed countries); for industrial customers, single-phase vs. 3-phase, etc. Prices are usually highest for commercial and residential consumers because of the additional costs associated with stepping down their distribution voltage. The price of power for industrial customers is relatively the same as the wholesale price of electricity, because they consume more power at higher voltages. Supplying electricity at transmission-level high voltages is more efficient, and therefore less expensive.
On the one hand, long-term, fixed-rate (contract) plans offer stability in pricing. If energy supply costs suddenly go up in your area, you won’t be left paying more than what you bargained for. You’ll have peace-of-mind. If you want to switch out of your contract before it ends with a lower cost plan, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee (early termination fee).
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.
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.
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).
In summary, fixed-rate plans provide a level of certainty and stability in your energy charge since the price will not fluctuate over the life of your contract. If prices suddenly spike, you are protected because your rate is locked in. The flip side is that if rates drop over the life of your contract, you’ll be stuck paying the higher rate. You can incur steep cancellation fees if you change electricity plans or providers before the end of your contract term.
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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.