Thursday, October 8, 2009

Will rising electricity prices reduce demand?

Analyse both price and quantity effects! Therefore it is quite a relief to see a new research paper attempting to quantify the effects of rising electricity prices on demand.

In the new paper " Aggregate electricity demand in South Africa: Conditional forecasts to 2030", Roula Inglesi at the University of Pretoria argues that electricity demand will drop substantially due to the price policies agreed – until now – by Eskom and the National Energy Regulator South Africa.

This is the full abstract of the paper:

In 2008, South Africa experienced a severe electricity crisis. Domestic and industrial electricity users had to suffer from black outs all over the country. It is argued that partially the reason was the lack of research on energy, locally. However, Eskom argues that the lack of capacity can only be solved by building new power plants.The objective of this study is to specify the variables that explain the electricity demand in South Africa and to forecast electricity demand by creating a model using the Engle–Granger methodology for co-integration and Error Correction models. By producing reliable results, this study will make a significant contribution that will improve the status quo of energy research in South Africa.

The findings indicate that there is a long run relationship between electricity consumption and price as well as economic growth/income. The last few years in South Africa, price elasticity was rarely taken into account because of the low and decreasing prices in the past. The short-run dynamics of the system are affected by population growth, too. After the energy crisis, Eskom, the national electricity supplier, is in search for substantial funding in order to build new power plants that will help with the envisaged lack of capacity that the company experienced. By using two scenarios for the future of growth, this study shows that the electricity demand will drop substantially due to the price policies agreed – until now – by Eskom and the National Energy Regulator South Africa (NERSA) that will affect the demand for some years.

In a summarised discussion in the monthly AfriNem Newsletter the following telling graph on projected electricity demand (assuming a doubling of the price of electricity from 2008-2011) is presented:

Even at relatively high economic growth rates of 4% and 6%, electricity demand is expected to fall around a massive 27% (when 2007 and 2030 values are compared). Good news is that this is expected to reduce CO2 emissions with 24Mt, but at a cost to several economic sectors such as utilities, construction and mining.

If you are relying on income from electricity sales and have not yet taken into account some basic economics yet: take note. There may be less funds than expected.

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