Market Reforms and Energy Security for the Poor in Developing Countries

Dr Judith Alazraque-Cherni, Imperial College London 

Growing scrutiny of the impact of liberalisation policy on the electricity sector in developing countries has highlighted a lesser known aspect of market reforms by focusing on poor consumers and poorer areas. The paper indicates the incomplete and also contradictory character of the electricity market reforms for the poor and raises the question whether energy security for the poor is possible under this policy. Reforms were designed to increase access to affordable services by the poor; however, a growing body of studies indicates quite the opposite. This paper gives new insight into the conflicting effects of electricity market reforms showing generally adverse results for the poor by focusing on such aspects as access and supply in post and pre-reform times and disconnections and informal supply. It also explores the speed of post-reform electrification in relation to pre-reform electrification. Taking stock of the impact of liberalisation policies upon poor populations in developing countries after decades of implementation is necessary to reflect on future trends. Regional, national and local studies are used to obtain comparative information on low and medium income households in countries undergoing market reform. Particular reference is given to Latin America and the Caribbean, where the reforms where first, and most vigorously adopted; and to Africa, which has experienced slower and less extensive reforms. The paper concludes on the viability of energy security under liberalisation policies and on policy principles to ensure sustainability and equity of access by the poor.

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