Is greater electricity consumption a sign of a development?

Posted on April 22, 2014  /  3 Comments

The latest data compilation from the World bank is out. I found particularly interesting Table 5.11 which reports electricity and ICT indicators. Despite all the talk of the power of the Internet, only fixed and mobile voice indicators are reported. I guess that is better than reporting bad data on Internet users.

But what got me thinking were the two indicators on electricity: consumption per capita and transmission and distribution losses as percentage of the total. We can agree that lower T&D losses are better. Yet, there are questions. Qatar, a tiny little country has T&D losses of 2%. Namibia, a vast and lightly populated country has losses of 28%. Are they comparable?

But what really intrigues me is electricity consumption per capita. Namibia, a large country of 2.2 million consumes 1549 kwh per person. Myanmar another low-population density country with around 50 million people consumes 110. Does this make Namibia superior? I chose warm countries because energy consumption has to be higher in cold countries (Norway consumes 23,174).

Or closer to home: Pakistan 449 v Sri Lanka 490. Last year we reduced consumption by 1% while increasing connected households by 4.5%. Was this bad?



  1. Electricity consumption in a way reflects the connected load in a house hold such as fridge , AC, heaters, TV etc apart from lighting . It could be inferred that higher electricity consumption is due to greater use of electrical/electronics devices by a house hold which in turn reflects the affluence level of the house hold. While reducing consumption by conserving electricity is recommended, its increased use by way of adding electrical gadgets to enhance the quality of life by house holds points to development and should be encouraged.

  2. What is being reported is grid electricity. I sense that power from mini-hydros and self-supplied electricity (within large enterprises) does not get counted. The difference between Sri Lanka and say India appears to be the fact that LK does not use grid power for many industries (and actually have less industry) and does not use power to pump water for agriculture like India. Over 90% of houses are supplied by the grid, higher than Northern states. Two years back 60 percent of households in the Western Province had refrigerators, and perhaps 40 percent island wide. This does not seem like a good enough explanation for the significant difference with India.