GIS - 16 August, 2018: A High-Level Seminar and a Power Sector Senior Managers’ workshop on Utility Regulations opened this morning at Hennessy Park Hotel in Ebene at the initiative of the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities, the Utility Regulatory Authority (URA) and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB).
Some 50 participants from the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities, the URA, the Central Electricity Board, the Mauritius Renewable Energy Agency, and Independent Power Producers are participaing. The main objective of this high-level seminar is to provide key stakeholders with a common understanding of the rationale for the creation of the URA and its role as a regulator. The seminar will also highlight the critical roles the various stakeholders must play towards an independent URA in an effectively regulated electricity supply system.
Themes on the agenda include, amongst others: Objectives, Agenda of Seminar and Road Map for AfDB support to URA; The Key Regulatory Roles of URA; The energy regulatory framework from business community perspective; The CEB status and role within the new regulatory framework; Client Engagement with the independent Regulator; Purpose and significance of regulating the Electricity Industry; and Principles of Electricity Regulation.
The Consultant, Dr Frank Sebbowa, a Power Sector Regulation Expert, has been appointed by the AfDB and the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF) to provide the URA with advisory support and technical assistance in the form of capacity building and organisational development in respect of its function as a regulator.
In his address, the Chairman of the URA, Mr Philip Ah-Chuen, recalled that the Government of Mauritius approved the setting up of a URA in 2004 and that the URA Act was enacted in November 2004. The URA, he added, is an independent body set up in September 2016 with the mandate to regulate the electricity, water and wastewater sectors.
Speaking about the objects of the Authority, Mr Ah-Huen highlighted that it aims to ensure the sustainability and viability of utility services, protect the interest of both existing and future customers, promote the efficiency of utility services as regards operation and capital investments; and promote competition to prevent unfair and anti-competitive practices in the utility services industry.
According to the Chairman, as a regulatory Authority, the URA must be independent and its roles must be clearly demarcated from Government’s role on policies. An effectively independent regulator must have management and financial independence and must be allowed to operate at ‘arms-length’ from all stakeholders, he emphasised.
For his part, the Consultant, Dr Frank Sebbowa, dwelt on the roadmap for AfDB support to the URA. He pointed out that in 2017, the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities requested the support of the AfDB for in-house training of new URA staff, sensitisation and briefing of key stakeholders about the URA work, development of the first three-year strategic Business Plan for the URA, and reviewing Energy laws so as to allow the URA to move forward with its mandate. Subsequently, he said, the AfDB and the ALSF appointed an Utility Regulatory Expert to provide support to the URA.
The main functions of the URA
The main objective of the Authority, which comprises the water, electricity and waste water sectors, is to protect the interests of users of public services. Under the URA Act, the body is able to grant, modify and revoke licenses for a public service. The URA will also keep a watch on developments and investments in the sector. The body may, for example, redirect operators depending on the application or needs, in specific regions. It will also be responsible for regulating tariffs charged by an operator.
The main functions of the URA are to implement the policy of Government relating to applicable utility services; establish an appropriate procedure for receiving and enquiring into complaints by customers in relation to any utility services; establish and implement adequate systems for monitoring the compliance by licensees with standards and applicable regulations; take measures for the better protection of customers in relation to any utility services; and examine and make recommendations to a licensee in respect of any Power Purchase Agreement which a licensee proposes to enter into.
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