Rethinking Power Sector Reform

Rethinking Power Sector Reform is a multiyear initiative that aims to refresh the policy debate, by presenting a comprehensive picture of developing country experience with power sector reform, and distilling lessons learned over the past 25 years. Supported by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and the Public–Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), the program also reflects on how recent technological trends that are disrupting the sector may call for new thinking on reform strategies.

Since the 1990's, a standard set of policy prescriptions for power sector reform has been widely used. These include vertical and horizontal unbundling of power utilities; private sector participation; creation of an independent regulator; achievement of cost recovery pricing; and the introduction of competition in power generation. While this package of reforms was – at least partially – adopted by many developing countries, momentum and uptake slowed considerably in the 2000's, and few countries have been able to fully implement the reform package.

Rethinking Power Sector Reform comprises a substantive evidence-based research program organized around five key themes: cost recovery, utility governance and restructuring, power markets, regulation, and political economy. The initiative centers on a power sector reform “observatory” covering a very diverse group of 15 developing country cases. These narrate the reform dynamics in each country and evaluate the impact of reform measures on key dimensions of sector performance including security of supply, operational efficiency, cost recovery and energy access.

The overall findings and policy recommendations emerging from this research will be encapsulated in a forthcoming flagship report to be published in 2019. All of the Background Papers associated with the project – including half a dozen stock-taking papers and some 20 case studies – are being released as they become available and can be downloaded from the blue bar below.