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.
When it comes to pinpointing specific months rather than seasons, every part of the country has its own highest- and lowest-demand months. For example, hotter states, such as Texas, have their lowest demand anytime between December and March. When it comes to your own location, you can determine typical demand trends by taking a look at your area’s weather patterns or your billing records that showcase your personal monthly demand levels.
Electric bills for customers in the Houston area can more than double in summer months, mainly because air conditioning. Not coincidentally, electric rates also rise in the summer months because of this increase in demand. The most dramatic rate increases occur in month-to-month plans, but electric rates do increase across the board for all fixed-rate contract lengths.
There’s some smart money placing big bets on a rebound for oil. Blackstone Group LP BX, +0.75% President Hamilton “Tony” James said last month that the company was “scrambling” to invest up to $10 billion in energy companies, according to Bloomberg. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said during the company’s earnings call on Jan. 29 that the majority of Blackstone’s energy investments were “oil-price agnostic, including energy-transportation infrastructure where we have off-take agreements, merchant power, renewables and other types of energy-oriented investing.”
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.
The table below shows simple comparison of electricity tariffs in industrialised countries and territories around the world, expressed in US dollars. The comparison does not take into account factors including fluctuating international exchange rates, a country's purchasing power, government electricity subsidies or retail discounts that are often available in deregulated electricity markets.
OPEC nations, along with Russia and Mexico, have refused to cut production, which is their traditional tool to prop up oil prices, out of fear of losing market share to the U.S., which has transformed the international oil market by greatly expanding hydraulic fracturing over the past decade. And U.S. producers might not lower production as quickly as some investors expect because of the significant improvement in the efficiency of horizontal fracturing wells.
For example, shoppers for Texas electricity plans in the 77494 ZIP code in Katy, TX, could find 12-month plans for 6.8 cents/kWh in February; by June, electricity rates had increased 27 percent to 9.3 cents/kWh. As of early September, 12-month plans were up again, to 9.9 cents/kWh – a 6.5 percent hike from June and a 46 percent increase just since February.
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.
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2. Fraud: Too many people have been victimized by glib sales reps with promises of cheap electricity flowing in an unending stream only to discover that, as is so often true, “it ain’t necessarily so”. They’ve been locked into unwanted term contracts or there’s a catch – some utilities will give you the great rate only if you meet a usage minimum; basically, the “rate” is, in actuality, a “bulk purchase” discounted fee – or they paid a deposit never to hear from the rep again.
ElectricityPlans lets you easily compare electricity plans by displaying all-inclusive rates at all advertised usage levels in a simple easy-to-read format. You can easily estimate your actual all-in electric bill at any given usage level using our Plan Details and Pricing section for each plan. All energy charges, delivery fees, bill credits, and other fees for each plan are shown so you can accurately estimate your monthly electric bill. By showing all rates and fees, you’ll avoid the electric bill sticker shock and so-called “teaser rates” commonly used by electric suppliers to achieve better search results on sites such as powertochoose.org.
There are over 60 different energy suppliers competing for your business on any given day in Texas. Many of these electric companies have websites that are confusing and nearly impossible to navigate, their rates and fees hidden by dense industry jargon and misleading advertising. Who has the spare the time to sort through the choices spread out over all these different sites and companies?