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Average electricity prices around the world: $/kWh

by Lindsay Wilson in Housing

Average electricity prices $/kWhAustralia 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.Average electricity rates

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.

Relatively electricity prices

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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  • Troy Kempton

    Outdated!!! The EU hadn’t even hit the wall yet on their nightmare and I suspect Germany’s rate is significantly higher given the number of articles regarding change of government because electrical rate are too high. your data is 2 years going on 3 old.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      To get an average price for 2011, you wait till the end of 2011. My data is less than two years old, and no homogeneous data was available for 2012, only OECD.

  • Laurence Webb

    Great post thanks Lindsay. Using purchasing power parities is an interesting way to compare energy prices around the world.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      Thanks Laurence. Still got yours on my list, got a bit waylaid by the IPCC stuff ;-)

  • Stacy Clarkson

    Forecasting the future of manufacturing is made simpler by this ,automation will be a big part of the future….And how much the electricity that powers that automation matters…..

  • Clare @ EcoFriendlyLink.com

    This is a most interesting article, and I particularly appreciate the extra insight into electricity prices relative to purchasing power – something which is often forgotten.
    I lived in South Africa for a few years – major transitions going on there – and sadly, much of the new electricity generation is coal-based, in common with many developing countries – it seems it is easier to get support / finance for fossil-fuel-based electricity than renewable energy. I find this very sad, especially in countries where sunlight is abundant, as is wind in some areas. It is the same where I live now (a tiny tropical island in the middle of nowhere).
    Development is all good and well but we are just repeating our mistakes by encouraging fossil fuel use.
    Cheap electricity, while very “nice” for us as consumers, has led to so much harm to the environment. House design rarely takes energy conservation into consideration because air-con will take care of non-passive design, manufacturing doesn’t need to consider other options when cheap electricity and waste disposal is readily available, relatively cheap electricity encourages higher usage (as you mention); the repercussions are everywhere.
    But I digress. I appreciate your insights, you always have an interesting way of looking at things!

    • Lindsay Wilson

      The South Africa prices are charging up over the next 5 years I think, as is the case in lots of areas of Africa. They try to keep the prices down for social reasons, but then can’t get the foreign investment and finance needed to improve the grid, so they are forced to raise them in a hurry. Happening in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda . . . Don’t you have lots of bagasse on that island?

      • Clare @ EcoFriendlyLink.com

        You’re extremely well-informed! Yes, we have bagasse, and some of the larger sugar cane companies use it to make themselves net carbon zero – or at least the crop harvesting. I understand it’s fairly inefficient in terms of energy output per volume but hey, it’s right there and would otherwise go to waste.

        • Lindsay Wilson

          Oh yes it is terrible, full of moisture and ash, but is all in one place so it is incredibly cheap. From memory if a sugarcane company gets modern tech they can produce double the electricity they use

    • sirgareth

      I certainly hope you didn’t ride one of those
      carbon burning jets to get there.

    • sirgareth

      Burning stuff and using wheels to roll things rather than carrying them on our backs is all old hat now.

      How do you “know” that coal hurts God anyway?

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  • Anthony

    Hi, where did you get your data for electricity prices? I’m trying to find the price of electricity in China.

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  • Bruce

    NZ?

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  • James

    South Africa is 20c/Kwh like the UK and with the current energy crisis it will more likely than not be more expensive than Germany down the line.

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  • NorskeDiv

    As a result of this, Germans are switching to coal and wood furnaces to warm their houses. The uptake of electric vehicles has also been very slow.

    This is exactly why it’s a mistake to think making electricity expensive will reduce people’s carbon footprint. It will do exactly the opposite. Electricity can be generated cheaply with no direct carbon output using nuclear energy, and to some degree wind and in some regions solar. Switching the grid over to carbon free sources of electricity which can provide electricity as cheaply as possible ought to be the goal, this will encourage the entire economy to switch away from fossil fuels and towards the cleanly generated electricity.

    • firftrmark

      I after this brutal winter I will be putting in a wood burner and if I have to burn every last tree on my land it will be done.

  • Remy Bourreau

    Let’s face it, ALL the countries of the World are being screwed royally by a handful of monopolistic fossil fuel industries primarily vertically integrated. The ad campaign AGAINST Renewables in the US is so massive and intense that ad companies have been born and thrive solely on generating this propaganda. My home state of FL could benefit so greatly from Solar yet FL Power refuses to create grids allowing homeowners to generate and even sell their surplus electricity back to the grid as being done in the State of Washington and other states in the US.

    • Story

      No….. all countries are reaping a bounty from the oil companies. In America, an oil company makes about 2 -3 cents per gallon. The Federal government gets 18 cents for every gallon sold. It’s a government cash cow.

      • Jackson Wong

        The government itself is the biggest corporation of a nation. It is the mother corporation of all other corporations in its nation, and it actually behaves to benefit the interests of the oil oligopoly, with the intent of mutual profits. Notice that wars tend to be about robbing other nation’s resources. From WWII to the Iraqi wars, nations waged war on each other for resources.

        • Story

          There’s only one problem with your premise…. We threw lives and treasure away in Iraq, but didn’t reap any benefits in return. The oil contracts went to other nations.

          • Jackson Wong

            Corporations are multi-national in nature nowadays. As far as the corporate world is concerned, the whole idea of nation states is already obsolete.

            War is good for business, if you’re an arms supplier.

          • Story

            Tell the Egyptians the Muslim Brotherhood was only making a business investment. Tell those in Crimea and Ukraine that Russia is just a big, warm, cuddly Corporation. IIRC, the Iraqi oil contracts went to China. I don’t believe they do a whole lot with BP or Exxon/Mobile. I do know those Iraqi oil tankers aren’t lined up off the coast of California bringing in our spoils of war.

          • Jackson Wong

            Who do you think all corporations serve? Do you think their masters really care about which nation the corporations come from?

            As for those “underdog rebel forces” you refer to, well, how do you know they’re not backed in some way or another by those who benefit from the perpetuation of the enterprise of war?

            In the words of a former general: “War is a racket. I could have taught Al Capone a thing or 2.”

          • sirgareth

            I think corporations serve their own interests just like politicians, bureaucrats …and well even like you and me.

          • sirgareth

            What was war good for before there were corporations?
            I mean when was it ever unpopular

          • Jackson Wong

            How far back should we go?

            British Empire: East Indian Company.

            Roman Empire: Nothing like a free-flwoing supply of slaves and taxes to keep the entrpeneurs that the senate was comprised of happy.

          • sirgareth

            You appear to be railing against human nature. Perhaps you should have been born a mouse.

            Are mice “egalitarian?”

            Yes people who love security more then freedom will be enslaved one way or another by those who demand freedom of action for themselves.

            Today’s entrepreneurs are often found in senior political positions of the Democrat (really communist) Party.

            Look Clinton, was a nobody but when he wanted a woman he simply raped her. See what I mean…..he demanded complete freedom of action

            He is now one of the most admired politicians in the country. He entered government penniless and now holds 500 million. He has never invented or provided anything to any other human. He was a taker and you are his slave but only because you choose to be out of fear.

            You don’t think half of the responsibility for being a slave rests squarely on the shoulders of the slave?

          • Jackson Wong

            The only Human Nature we can actually be sure of is Humanity’s adaptability.

            Vegan zealots have claimed that eskimos can survive their high fat, almost pure meat and blubber diet better than the rest of humanity due to bigger liver, etc. (just a pile of unproven conjecture, actually). Yet very ordinary caucasians thrived and completed epic journeys after adapting and later thriving on the eskimo diet, even going so far as to credit the diet for their newfound stamina in the cold.

            If you went back to 200 years in time and asked a headhunter of Borneo: “What’s wrong with you? You have 15 shrunken heads in your house!”, He’ll probably say: “What’s wrong? My cousin has 21!”. Assuming that you got to learn his language and ask the question before he decides to add your skull to his personal collection to catch up with the cousin he’s falling behind.

            The real reason why humans have so much more potential than other creatures on earth is our ability to adapt and change. There is no such thing as a fixed human nature, and history has shown that most of what many assume to be “human nature” can be traced back to cultural upbringing.

            For instance, a rich spolied heiress in would assume that it’s “Human Nature” for every woman to desire a 5000$ handbag made with a cost of only 5$ by a sweatshop. I know quite a few well to do ladies NOT in the USA that will laugh their arses off at the notion of such an obviously stupid rip-off deal.

            By the way, I don’t live in the USA, so you’re barking up the wrong tree if you’re trying to play scare tactics on me with their politics.

            Of course, it’s always the slaves fault. Why did you CHOOSE to be born to slave parents? Stupid boy! Why don’t you run away and choose freedom? Oh wait, they’ll chase you down with their hunting dog packs and hunt you down like a fox just for the fun of it.

            So many unfounded assumptions you have. You remind me of the guy in “Office Space” who invented the “Jump to Conclusions Mat”. He made a killing selling this floor mat game on the open market in the movieverse.

            Please, for the good of humanity, stop trolling around the internet and calling anyone who disagrees with you in even the slightest way a “Communist”.

          • sirgareth

            What a ramble,

            The reason (some) people can adapt is because they actually learned a skill called “thinking” Thinking involves “problem solving” not mantra repetition. Notice that “learning” and “thinking are distinctly separate things.

            Learning often consists of repeating the mistakes of your indoctrinators; thinking gives one the ability to reject what one has been told must be true.

            What do you have against multinational corporations?

            Are you opposed to all international organizations or just international “corporations” How about international student exchange programs?

            Communism of course is a slave system that has been completely discredited, even among the dullest bulbs. The communists (slave masters) can’t really point to how lovely it is in North Korea so, of course, they have to make their attacks on capitalism (freedom) oblique.

            They use all sorts of verbage designed to short-circuit thinking. Carbon (the stuff all life is made of) is now “pollution” “Green” is now the central planning necessary to reject the stuff that actually makes the green areas of the earth actually “green” (carbon dioxide).
            “Sustainability” is suppose to be living in concert with nature, but if the green twits actually understood anything of nature (they always live in cities devoid of contact with real nature), they would quickly conclude that nothing in nature is “sustainable” In fact, one could most accurately describe natural as the force that despises “sustainability”

            So again just what is it about international corporations or associations of free people who associate for their own purposes rather than some “Master Planners” purpose that has your knickers in a twist.

            I take it from your idiom that you are a member of the UK island sheep farm. As such what did you think of the munitions corporations that prevented Hitler from rolling over your island and relegating you to the status of “sub-human” (if your surname accurately reflects your race)

          • Jackson Wong

            This is not even about railing against anyone, Historical economic facts are what they are, yet you interpret everything in us vs. them mentality. You are obviously misinterpreting what I said, seeing things through your own
            ideological filter, probably without being aware of it. The corporations are not being inherently evil, but are in fact just doing what game theory predicts them to do given the rules of the money and power game. If some course of
            action makes them the most money with the least risk, but will cost everyone else dearly, so be it. It’s just self-preservation. But if the optimally profitable path happens to coincidentally benefit many people along the way, so be it. Again, it’s only self-preservation in the monetary game at play.

            Never said I believed in the AGW scam, which I’ve yet to see any good proof myself. I guess that it’s just another money-making scam that
            is actually distracting us from the real issues, such as the need to stop toxic waste from being dumped around with reckless abandon. Ever been to China? They are free to pump out all the soot they want.

            Let’s face it, the universe will do as it wills, all we can do as the human race is to grow up, unite, focus on what really matters to all of us and maximize our survivability and prosperity.

            Again, you disappoint me with just how over-simplistic, narrow minded and bigoted you really are. Still playing up this dichotomy of either I’m in total agreement with you or I’m Communist, which in your dictionary probably equals evil satanic cult. The world isn’t black and white, cut and dry. Once you actually get to know people and happen to be as honest to
            yourself as your senses enable you to be, you will be forced to see that the universe as a complex, interconnected web, where nothing happens in a vacuum.

            I’ve spent many years in both east and west, having the opportunity to meet many sorts of cultures (Western, Middle Eastern, South-East Adian, East Asian, etc.). I feel lucky in the sense that I’m a product of failed indoctrination attempts, and my stubborn nature that makes me believe only what I observe and makes logical sense to me, not what others force me to believe. Though cost me much personal gain along the way, it has also freed my mind to see things closer to how they really are.

            I’m not even from the UK, by the way. First you assume I’m from the USA, now you’re insulting me as if I’m British. Since you are obviously incapable of just focusing on logically discussing topics and are in fact obsessed with labelling, name calling and other bullying tactics, this discussion is over.

          • sirgareth

            Re: seeing things through an ideological filter (my own). This is another way of accusing someone of thinking.

            Just who among us does not use an ideological scale when weighing alternatives? Ideology is just another way of evaluating right from wrong.

            Facts have little to do with history and corporations are simply associations of people driven by the same motives as all sane people. We all want to maximize our gains and minimize our loses. As long as some filthy politician or their bureaucrats with the power of law behind him doesn’t force the scales of economic justice, there is no harm in this. Its human nature. Corporations are not constituted to “do good” this makes them unlike government that has visited so much misery on the planet, they do not possess armies to force us to do it their way.

            As far as communism, I do not equate it with satanic cults. Its far far worse.

            No the world is not black and white but acts can be black or white; murder-rape is not nuanced.

            You seem to believe I’ve led some sheltered life but in fact I have worked extensively on all the continents but Antarctica and have expatriated to both Africa and Asia. I have outworked Chinamen under the table much to their amazement. I lived years in Tokyo as well.

            Challenging your ideas or your rhetoric is not “bullying you;” you step in the ring, put up your dukes and complain if you take a blow. Man up.

            Another name for labeling is “language”
            I do not need to try arsenic in my tea because is has a label.

            I take clues from language and rhetoric because I am a thinking reasoning person I make “judgments” ie “I am judgmental”

            People who are ready to believe and accept everything actually believe in nothing.

  • sirgareth

    The greenhouse effect occurs in greenhouses. Greenhouses are small and have a glass roof thus they deny air escape the same way as a well sealed building.

    Nothing like this occurs in open air and trace gases in the atmosphere have nothing to do with controlling the climate. The sun does this.

    There are multi-billionaires are banking on the gulibilty of the average government educated (indoctrinated) dolt to rob them of their wealth. Goldman Sachs has bet the equivalent of the GNP of 90% of the nations in the UN that you will allow them to be the gate-keepers to pay for ther right to burn fuel

    I’m betting with Goldman Sachs and so far my stock has been riding higher than Moochelle Obama’s “carbon foot stomp”

    Have you noticed that no government agencies plot their own carbon footprint; do you think they know its a scam too?

    • OhRyanT

      This is the dumbest thing I have read in my entire life.

      • sirgareth

        Thanks for proving my point, just another illiterate uneducated dolt. Typical fodder for the “global warming” con-game.

        If you had an iota of intelligence you might have picked something I wrote and demonstrated why it’s wrong. You can’t do this you respond with the typical Neanderthal like comments of the far left; completely devoid of substance.

        Good show.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      Without the greenhouse effect the earth would be an uninhabitable 33 C colder that it is. Fourier, Tyndall, Langley and Arrhenius understood this more than a century ago. There are plenty of questions about speed of the transient climate response, but I’m afraid the underlying physics are solid. Did you notice we just had the warmest May since records began? Just a coincidence, or an underlying warming trend with a brewing El Nino?

      • sirgareth

        Yes I know you have been told that and repeat it like a trained parrot, possibly for a good grade. You aren’t a bird brain simply squawking back whatever you hear or are you.

        Do you know how a greenhouse actually works. If you do please tell us why real greenhouses and the Earths atmosphere do not and cannot share the same heating/warming physics. Isnt it odd they refer to this theory with a structure that has nothing in common with a greenhouse. Truly educated people use their brains to actually “think” rather than merely sing the mindless mantras they have been taught

        And if you were not a trained parrot you would ask whoever told you this “how can you prove that?”

        Unproven theory is almost always wrong, there is a name for it. Its called conjecture and its still conjecture no mater how many sing the refrain. Like all of the Axis “scientists” whose theories on race were drilled into the little brown-shirted Hitler youth for good grades .

        You name some rather prominent 18th and 19th century scientists as your authority, missing the point that none of them decided the air was just like a greenhouse. Even if they did so what, does that make it true? Sir Isaac Newton devoted most of his scientific career to Alchemy…that must make it true?

        And no, I only “noticed” that we had one of the coolest springs and early summers on record. There is no “global temperature” and collection of constantly modified and manipulated numbers advertised as “historical data” purported to record it, is nothing but a farce. You do realize that many of the histoical climate records are fictions created by garbage in garbage out computer programs.

        If you are prepared to stop with the official state manta that you were trained to repeat I will discuss any of the aspects of what I have written. Its not for the skeptic to prove what you claim is wrong. It’s up to the skeptic to see if you really know what you are talking about.

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  • AmarKanth

    Lindsay Wilson, is this per month calculation of electricity consumed in the first graph? The time axis doesn’t specify the duration (months, years, days).

    • Lindsay Wilson

      ?? It’s all prices normalized to USD

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