Electric utilities in many developing countries are faced with a panoply of major problems. Often operating at low reliability, in severe financial difficulty due to inadequate tariffs, and under pressure to expand the network to rural areas at the same time that they are under pressure to reduce capital outlays because of demands to reduce public-sector spending and concerns over the ability to service foreign debt. Traditional approaches to electric utility planning have become inadequate in this new financial climate. In this paper we explore the institutional, economic, manpower and financial dimensions of the present crisis, and examine their implications for national governments, donor agencies and international financial institutions. We emphasize the need for a more balanced approach to planning models, for improved procedures to deal with uncertainties and for a more imaginative approach to non-traditional solutions.