Policy Research Working Paper

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The Policy Research Working Paper Series disseminates the findings of work in progress to encourage the exchange of ideas about development issues. An objective of the series is to get the findings out quickly, even if the presentations are less than fully polished. The papers carry the names of the authors and should be cited accordingly. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent.

This is the first paper to build a comprehensive empirical picture of power pricing practices across Sub-Saharan Africa, based on a new database of tariff structures in 27 countries for the years 2004–2008. Using a variety of quantitative indicators, the paper evaluates the performance of electricity tariffs against four key policy objectives: recovery of historic power production costs, efficient signaling of future power production costs, affordability to low income households, and distributional equity.

As regards cost recovery, 80 percent of the countries in the sample fully recover operating costs, while only around 30 percent of the countries are practicing full recovery of capital costs. However, due to the fact that future power development may be based on a shift toward more economic technologies than those available in the past, existing tariffs look as though they would be consistent with Long Run Marginal Costs in nearly 40.