Since 1996, when the energy market was opened up to competition, UK consumers have been able to switch energy suppliers to find a cheaper gas and electricity deal. Previously, Ofgem did set a maximum price for energy; but now Ofgem only regulates the market as a whole — that means creating a regulating schemes to support vulnerable households and more.
Ironically, technology can make the utilities’ problem worse, not better—at least in the short term. In the past, grids were developed because it was cheaper to generate large quantities of power and distribute it over wide distances, rather then generate smaller quantities closer to the place of use. It is for this reason that electricity is seen as a business that benefits from “economies of scale”.
According to the EIA, the average American household uses 897 kWh of energy per month. Knowing that number, and how your own home’s usage compares, provides insight into the amount of energy you use per device. Our Energy Estimator will show you why simple changes like programming your thermostat or turning off televisions and computers when not in use will help lower energy costs.
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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.
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).