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Panama - Electricity

The electrical system being used in Panama is 120 volts AC, 60Hz. The normal type of plug seen in the country is the round 2 pin plug. Most appliances brought from abroad will need adaptors in order to work properly, although the system is the same as that of the US, so if you are moving from there to Panama, all your household appliances and other electrical equipment will work well. Adaptors are available from a number of outlets if you should need them.

The power supply in Panama is frequently interrupted, although if you live in an apartment building you will find that it may have its own generator to cover essentials such as lifts and air conditioning. A power cut can be anything from a few minutes to a few hours and it is very rare that a power cut will run into days, but it has been known. Rural areas will suffer far more from this than urban areas so many opt to generate their own electricity.

The pricing of your electricity bill is calculated on the area that you live in. If you are in an affluent area you may find that you are paying 3 or 4 times more than a colleague who lives in a poorer neighbourhood. If you are in a large house and you run air conditioning frequently your electricity bill can be as much as $200 a month, although most people pay much less than this as they only run appliances and air conditioning when they need them. Many people will pay an average of $30-40 per month. Those who are in the country on one of the retired persons programmes will be able to claim a discount as part of the terms of their visa.

In order to receive electricity you need to register with the supply company. In Panama this is an organisation which is overseen by the government called Union Fenosa. There is no choice of electricity providers although supplies to rural areas may be fed through a smaller distribution company. Signing up is simply a matter of calling them and giving them your details. As an expat you may find that you need to provide them with copies of ID papers such as your Panama ID card or passport and you will need to prove that you have the right to live in the property so a copy of your tenancy agreement would be helpful.

Union Fenosa is a Spanish company which is in operation throughout the world, although mainly in Spanish speaking countries. All the information needed to sign up can be found on the website along with contact details for the company. The company can be contacted during normal working hours and weekends.

Bills can be paid in a number of ways. It is now possible to pay bills online although many people are opting for a direct debit system simply because it is easier. Bills can also be paid over the counter at one of the electricity company’s outlets or at a bank. Accepted payment methods include cheque, cash and money transfer.

Non-payment of bills means that your supply will be cut off. Unlike most other countries you will probably not get any notice for this happening. The first you will know about it is when the crew arrive to terminate the power. The good news is that these crews are usually open to a little bribery so that you can stop the power cut off if you pay a little money to buy yourself some time to pay the bill. They do not have the right to force their way into your home and often you can stop the procedure by telling them that the bill has been paid online.

Homes in rural areas tend to generate electricity through the use of generators and solar panels. This is mainly due to the problems of getting mains electricity to these areas and this can provide a reliable service when those with mains electricity are experiencing power cuts. The rivers in certain areas are also suitable for building hydroelectric plants on a small scale. These are suitable for supplying a few hundred homes with electricity.

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