On Tuesday, during its 7th day of extraordinary sitting, the Plenary of the House of Representatives overwhelming concurred with the Senate to pass the 2015 Electricity Law of Liberia – which was earlier passed on last Thursday.
The 2015 Electricity Law is expected to be sent to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her endorsement and then it will be printed into handbills and become law.
Twenty nine Representatives voted in favor of the enactment, while one voted against and one abstained.
The House suspended its rules, allowing the second reading of the bill entitled: “2015 Electricity Law of Liberia,” to constitute the “third reading” to enable the bill to be discussed and subsequently ratified.
A resolution from the House Joint Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy; Natural Resources, Environment; Judiciary; Public Utilities and State Enterprise; Autonomous Commissions and Agencies, prompted the endorsement of the Electricity Law.
“The Plenary of the House of Representatives mandated its Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy; Natural Resources, Environment; Judiciary; Public Utilities and State Enterprise; Autonomous Commissions and Agencies to evaluate the Liberian Senate’s Report on a bill entitled, “The 2015 Electricity Bill of Liberia” and to advise the House Plenary whether or not to concur with the recommendations contained therein.
“It is important to indicate here that, in the spirit of coordination, the House Joint committees worked very closely with our counterparts in the Liberian Senate in a vigorous exercise to scrutinize the bill under consideration,” the report said.
It added: “During this process, the 2015 Electricity Bill was subjected to public hearings and subsequent committee room analyses.
“As a consequence of our joint effort in considering this bill, the Joint Committees of the House of Representatives do recommend full concurrence with the report and recommendations of the Liberian Senate.”
It may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf submitted the ‘2015 Electricity Bill’ to the Legislature for consideration in July which was subsequently sent to the Joint Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment; and Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petition.
According to the Joint Committee’s findings, the crux of the President’s bill seeks to liberalize the electricity sector as a means of driving competition, which could improve access, quality, and lower costs of electricity.
The act also establishes, according to the joint committee, the legal and regulatory framework for the generation, transmission, distribution and retail sale of electricity and for import and export, which it said, will create an enabling environment for private sector investment in the country’s energy sector.
The joint committee recommended that in addition to its role as the transmission system operator and the national grid company, the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) should continue to be involved in the power generation business.
It further stated that from the effective date of the proposal, LEC should be considered to be automatically licensed provisionally to engage in power generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity.
The three committees further recommended that the regulatory functions should rest with the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy MLM&E) for a period of two years from the effective date of the law which “will allow time for the European Union-sponsored capacity building project in the Department of Energy at the Ministry to be implemented.”
The Royal Government of Norway, the committee disclosed, also has a capacity-building project with the MLM&E in the electricity sector, and will help to train the staff of the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission (LERC).
“The Chairperson and the other two members of LERC should be appointed no later than one year after the effective date of this law,” the committee recommended.
No later than the end of the first year, which marks the beginning of a two-year transitional period, the committee said the MLM&E and the Regulatory Commission shall constitute a transitional committee composed of the commissioners of the Independent Regulatory Commission (IRC) and staff of LM&E to develop a detailed transition plan, which will guide the implementation of the transition from LM&E to the IRC.
“At the end of the two-year transition, the IRC should be fully established and completely separated from the MLM&E and housed outside of it.”
The legislation of the ‘2015 Electricity Law’ is one of the bills submitted by President Sirleaf which constrained her to request the Legislature not to go into their Constitutional Break.
The LEC was created by an Act of the Legislature in 1973, and although it does not have monopoly by law, the corporation has been in charge of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity services.
At US$0.54 cents per kilo watt hour, Liberia has the highest tariff for electricity in the world.