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Shining a Light on Electricity Governance

Shining a Light on Electricity Governance highlights the work and specific outcomes of the EGI network since the initiative’s inception in 2003.

Executive Summary

Since the 1990’s, international financial institutions have urged developing countries to liberalize the electricity sector in their countries to bring financial solvency to the sector. The liberalization “package” included unbundling the electricity generation, transmission, and distribution functions, privatizing the unbundled entities, and introducing independent regulators to oversee the sector.

EGI was motivated by concerns that private interests would capture policy and regulatory processes and crowd out public interests. Indeed, decision-making was focused on creating enabling environments for investors, not on building institutional capacity, developing robust stakeholder processes or enhancing sector transparency. EGI sought to reinfuse these processes with public interest, by seeking the opening up of these processes to a wider range of voices, and drawing greater attention to issues such as affordability, service quality and environmental impacts.

Today, in addition to increasing access to affordable energy and ensuring financial viability of the sector, decision-makers in developing countries also need to ensure environmental sustainability and a low-carbon growth strategy for the sector. EGI’s attention to ‘good governance’ is still highly relevant in this new context; and EGI continues to support civil society in improving decision-making in a warming world, where development and climate objectives must be reconciled.

EGI works with a growing coalition of civil society organizations and research institutions to engage with national institutions where decisions about investment priorities, resource mix, and pricing of electricity take place. The workings of these institutions—policymaking, planning, and regulatory—are often complex, powerful, and opaque; and civil society partners have used EGI tools to document and address the lack of transparency around these processes and the inefficiencies, short-term gains, and suboptimal decisions that result.

This document seeks to articulate lessons learned thus far on how building the capacity of civil society to use EGI tools can lead to specific national and global improvements in the governance of the electricity sector. These stories demonstrate the importance of building civil society capacity to ensure clean, affordable, and accessible electricity to all. The study of electricity sector governance is an emerging field and needs additional resources and support by donors, governments, and public interest advocates.

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