Most Middle East economies have strategies in place to reduce power consumption, but they tend to be based on information campaigns. A review of international best practice indicates that while information programmes are an essential component of a strategy for preventing power crises, they cannot and should not be the sole focus. A multi-pronged approach can be much more effective. This will often involve a mass media campaign, various types of financial incentives to encourage the purchase of efficient equipment and reduce power consumption during critical times, and new ways of pricing electricity.

Mass media campaigns target all customers through radio, television and the press with messages underlining the scarcity of power resources. Successes include California’s Flex Your Power campaign, which cut demand by 14 per cent in 2001, and New Zealand’s 10 for 10 campaign, which reduced demand by 10 per cent in both 2001 and 2003.

Generic financial incentives give customers, for example, an extra 20 per cent reduction in their energy bill if they reduce their energy usage by 20 per cent in a baseline period. California’s Energy 20/20 programme was successful in mitigating the state’s power crisis and accounted for about two-thirds of the aggregate savings of 5,000 MW in the summer of 2001. The energy savings were achieved at a cost of $0.03 a kWh, or about 10 per cent of the cost at which energy was being supplied.

Specific financial incentives can be used to promote high-efficiency appliances, lighting systems and industrial processes. These take the form of appliance-specific rebates to promote the replacement of inefficient appliances (and light bulbs) with efficient ones. Examples include Ceylon Electricity Board’s fluorescent lighting programme in Sri Lanka and an Australian rebate initiative to promote the use of high-efficiency chillers in office buildings and other commercial facilities in Victoria state. In the Sri Lanka programme, the efficient lamps reduced peak demand on the utility system by 34 MW, lowered energy use by 46 GWh a year and improved the affordability of electricity for the country’s poorer households.

Quotas on energy consumption are used to curtail consumption to preset limits and to charge a higher price for customers using more than their quota. Brazil, whose power system depends on hydroelectric resources for about 80 per cent of its energy generation, was faced with a serious shortfall in 2001. The Brazilian power sector comprises 74,000 MW of installed capacity, 95 per cent of which is hydroelectric, serving 170 million people. The Brazilian system is comparable in size to the UK or Italian systems, but with a more extensive transmission system and a less diverse resource mix. It established mandatory targets for saving energy that varied by sector. Households that consumed less than 100 kWh had no savings target. All others had a target of 20 per cent. Industries and government buildings had targets that varied between 15 and 25 per cent, while public lighting had a target of 35 per cent. To reduce demand, penalties and incentives were introduced. For example, customers who did not meet the targets were subject to interruption of supply.

To assist poor customers, Brasilia bought 5.6 million compact fluorescent lamps and gave them away free. The programme achieved a reduction in demand of 20 per cent. Argentina was faced with a power shortage last year and adapted the