The takeaway here is simple. As is the case in Washington and Iceland, if a state or country has an abundance of natural resources, it should take advantage of them to drive down the price of a kWh to attract businesses. Diversification is especially essential where possible. Without businesses and industries paying to draw power from the electrical grid, the local economy stagnates.
Generally, the generation of electricity is unrelated to anything on your bill. Power plant companies generate electricity and sell it to utilities as well as retail electricity providers in deregulated areas. The electricity is then resold to you, the customer. Transmission and distribution is taken care of and charged to you by your utility, regardless of what company supplies the electricity. These charges are separate from the supply portion of your bill.
The consumer has the choice between buying from their local utility (Local Distribution Company - LDC) or from one of the deregulated suppliers. There is a large range of contract options from a variable price to 1,3 or 5 year fixed prices. Electricity provider switching is difficult once the consumer is in one of these contracts, unless they are close to the end of a fixed price contract. However, as of January 2010 there is a maximum termination penalty allowed.
TDSPs or EDUs are the companies and people who own and maintain utility poles and power lines. They are the ones that you call when your power goes out. These utility companies are responsible for the physical delivery of electricity to your home or business. Before deregulation, everyone was required to buy their electricity from their local utility company. With deregulation, the supply of electricity was opened to competition while the delivery of electricity continues to be regulated by the state’s public utility commission.
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.
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.
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