The Virgin Islands, in fact, has some of the world’s most expensive electricity precisely because it doesn't have the means to diversify its energy portfolio. The territory depends entirely on imported crude oil to run its petroleum power plants, and as a result, its energy goes for between 50.8 and 54.8 cents per kWh as of last year. This business-repelling price far exceeds that of countries whose energy is considered steep compared to the U.S. average, namely, Denmark ($0.41 cents per kWh), Germany ($0.35), Spain ($0.30), Australia ($0.29) and Italy ($0.28). This year the Virgin Islands has tried to reel in businesses with substantial tax breaks, but the savings might not be enough to offset the eye-popping electricity bill.
It’s worth noting that you can switch for free with no exit fee 42-49 days before the end of your contract. Under Ofgem’s standards of conduct, energy firms have to give you between 42 and 49 days’ notice of your tariff ending. You can use this time to decide whether to stick with them, or switch. If you decide to switch, you won’t be charged an exit 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.
A lot of these financial structures ultimately boil down to being a form of government guarantee, which means that they can’t be scaled up to “solve” countries’ power problems because the governments cannot carry all the liabilities. Countries try to introduce the private sector into power generation precisely to reduce such guarantees, which then end up returning through the back door in the form of government support.
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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