The Chairman of Brescelco, a coalition advocating for sufficient, cheap and reliable electricity to Liberia, Mr. Harry Greaves, Jr., has presented to the National Legislature a document containing 12,000 signatures of Liberians requesting that body to “kindly pass” into law the 2015 Electricity Law submitted by BRESCELCO.
Mr. Greaves presented the document to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, Senator Albert T. Chie, in the Chamber of the Senate yesterday during a public hearing on the proposed 2015 Electricity Law submitted by President Sirleaf in July, and another by a civil society group in May.
Greaves said the signatures were collected over the period of eight (8) months in more than 60 communities, during surveys conducted to understand residents’ experiences with electricity service.
According to the former managing director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), his bill seeks to accomplish several tasks, including the removal of what he described as a de facto monopoly enjoyed by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC); and to open the market to private investors and competition.
Mr. Greaves asserted that the 1973 Act creating LEC did not grant it any exclusivity over the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity service.
He recalled that over the past 40 years, no other company has attempted to challenge LEC’s dominant market position, “So, even though LEC does not have a monopoly by law, it has a monopoly for all practical purposes.”
Greaves’ bill is also calling for the unbundling of service through which electricity service should be separated into what he described as its three constituent parts: generation on the front end; transmission in the middle; and distribution at the back end.
The generation of electricity according to the Brescelco boss, should be opened completely to private investors.
Greaves said though Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo said the LEC has 22MW of capacity, the LEC is actually generating 6MW because most of its generators have broken down and are not working.
The entire country, according to Greaves, needs about 700-800MW of power that will include providing power to the country’s four iron ore mining operations.
“For LEC to be a reliable and effective TRANSCO (transmission company), it will have to be restructured and look for a partner with deep pockets; and not depend on donor funds for operations which should be used for capital investment, not day-to-day operations,” he said.
One of the major objectives of the Brescelco bill as contained in yesterday’s presentation, is a call for the establishment of an independent regulator free from both government and operators, and will be responsible for issuing licenses to operators, ensuring that service providers operate according to established standards, setting tariffs and carrying out other duties that are standard procedure worldwide.
“We believe that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s bill for the regulator to be housed in the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy, under a department of energy is a bad idea,” Greaves said.
One important benefit Greaves said Brescelco envisages in opening the Liberian electricity market is access to the non-aid US$32 billion Obama Power Africa resources of which Liberia is one of only six countries selected to the pilot program.
However, Greaves said the condition for eligibility to benefit is for countries selected to open their markets to private investors; “but we are the only country out of the six that haven’t really gotten moving.”
Meanwhile, others making presentations yesterday included Minister Sendolo, LEC Acting CEO Mr. Joseph Mayah, and Mr. Ian Yahp, Chairman of LEC Board of Directors.
The two committees on energy from the Senate and House of Representatives now return to committee rooms for deliberations.
Present at the hearing were Senate Committee members Albert T. Chie, Chairman; Joseph Nagbe, Co-Chair; Senators Henry Yallah, Morris Saytumah, Dallas A. V. Gueh, Francis Paye, George Manneh Weah, Conmany Wesseh, and Peter Coleman, among others.
House Energy and Utilities Chair Adolph Lawrence and Representative William Dakel represented the House of Representatives.