Originally published on Shrink That Footprint
By Lindsay Wilson
Australia and Germany each just had an election. In both cases electricity prices were an election issue. That seems fair enough given that in both countries they are paying significant more $/kWh than most countries
But now Nova Scotia is heading to the polls and electricity prices are a key issue because they have ‘rocketed’ to 0.15 $/kWh (Canadian). That is indeed high by Canadian standards, but it is a bargain globally.
Out of curiosity I thought I’d crunch the numbers to see who really is paying a lot for their power.
Electricity prices around the world in $/kWh
It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, people love to moan about the cost of electricity.
This begs the question, where is electricity actually expensive and where is it cheap. Or better yet, is my electricity cheap or expensive?
To try and answer this question I’ve collected average electricity prices from 17 countries around the world, and converted them to $/kWh (US). All the data is based on average prices and exchange rates for 2011, and I’ve graphed them in US cents/kWh to keep it tidy.
Let’s start with the obvious. Denmark, Germany and Spain have expensive electricity. In fact in straight dollar terms Denmark is trumped only by small island countries dependent on imported diesel for power.
Canadian electricity is cheap at 10 US cents per kilowatt-hour, which is reflected in their high average electricity usage. US electricity prices at 0.12 $/kWh are also quite cheap internationally. In India and China they are very cheap.
I find this comparison pretty useful. And the reasons behind the differences are quite diverse. But there are two issues with this. One, electricity prices are on the move in many places, South Africa, Australia and Nigeria come to mind. And secondly, basic exchange rate conversions aren’t always the best measure of how expensive something really is.
The first is just something to be aware of. And despite my best efforts I couldn’t gather consistent data for 2012. The second however can be accounted for by considering purchasing power parities.
The relative price of electricity
Our initial comparison of electricity prices didn’t account for the fact that price levels vary a lot between countries. For example a US dollar will go a lot further buying goods and services in relatively cheap India than it will in relatively expensive Australia.
If we look at the same average electricity prices for 2011 but this time adjust them to US dollars using purchasing power parity the picture look slightly different.
Once you adjust for the different price levels between countries Canadians have the cheapest electricity and Germans the most expensive.
Places like Nigeria and India have jumped up the list due to their lower price levels, while countries including Denmark, Australia and Japan have fallen because they are relatively expensive places to live. In general accounting for purchasing power lessened the difference between countries, but significant differences remain.
Which brings me back to Nova Scotia. Paying 12 US cents/kWh is expensive in Canada.
Just don’t moan about it abroad!
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