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This paper proposes an improved evolutionary programming (IEP) and its hybrid version combined with the nonlinear interior point (IP) technique to solve the optimal reactive power dispatch (ORPD) problems. In an IEP method, the common practices in regulating reactive power are followed in adjusting the mutation direction of control variables in order to increase the possibility of keeping state variables within bounds. The IEP is also hybridized with the IP method to obtain a fast initial solution, which is then used as a highly evolved individual in the initial population of the improved EP method. Numerical tests of the proposed algorithm on the IEEE 118-bus system and a realistic power system in Western China are very encouraging compared with the existing ORPD algorithms in term of computational efficiency and optimality.