Liberalisation of the electricity sector is on the increase on a global scale. Corporate driven reforms are portrayed by international financial institutions and multilateral development banks as means of improving efficiency and attracting foreign investment for national economic growth. Most countries across the world are taking steps towards privatisation and deregulation of the electricity sector, often to meet the conditions imposed by international donors to comply with regional or global trade agreements.
If the aim is really to improve the living conditions of ordinary people by lowering the cost of increasing the quality of power provision, privatisation and deregulation have evidently failed. During the past five years, from New Zealand to California and from India to Brazil, the world has witnessed a series of catastrophic blackouts, kyrocketing tariffs, growing corruption, environmental disasters and the collapse of the Enron Corporation, a veritable icon of liberalisation. This first issue of Power and Society attempts to look beyond the promised benefits of liberalisation and debunk some myths about power deregulation and privatisation worldwide.