Proposed 2015 LEC Law under Scrutiny Again

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For the second time in two months, the National Legislature will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2015 Electricity Law submitted by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in July.
According to the office of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, a similar bill submitted by a civil society group in May under the sponsorship of some Legislators will also be considered at the hearing, which starts at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
President Sirleaf’s proposed act and that of the civil society group deal with the liberalization and unbundling of the electricity sector in order to create an enabling environment for the attraction of private investment to the sector.
The new role of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) in the unbundled sector is also considered in the proposed acts, according to the report from the office of Senator Albert Tugbe Chie who chairs the energy committee.
The outcome of Wednesday’s hearing which takes place in the Chamber of the Senate is expected to complement the July 17, 2015 public hearing which focused on the liberalization of the electricity sector.
It may be recalled that during the July 17, 2015 hearing, the joint committee sought the views of students, representatives of the Government and parastatal bodies, the business community, international partners and civil society advocates on the best approaches to fully open the electricity market to private sector investment.
According to the National Legislature, it is expected that when the electricity sector is reformed, competition will be enhanced which could improve access to electricity services by urban and rural dwellers, and improve quality and lower costs.
During the last public hearing the LEC, represented by Mr. Joseph Mayah and Minister Patrick Sendolo of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, delivered a paper under the topic, “Road Map to the Liberalization of the Electricity Sector of Liberia” and agreed on the need for the liberalization of the sector, but through a gradual process.
Under its road map as presented at the public hearing, the LEC management is of the view that the liberalization of the sector shall be pursued in many ways, such as the amendment of the act creating the LEC to reflect the incorporation of private sector participation in the electricity sector; and introduction of a governance structure that incorporates private participation.
Also delivering a paper at the July hearing was Mr. Harry Greaves, chairman and founder of BRESCELCO, a coalition advocating for sufficient, cheap and reliable electricity to Liberia.
Greaves, who is also a former managing director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), told the hearing that the LEC tariff at U$54 cents /KwH is the highest in the world by a long shot, and lacks enough money, skilled manpower, and know-how or management talent to get the job done. He asserted that LEC is on life support, relying primarily on donor aid, which he said is usually short term.
The BRESCELO chairman noted that the solution to LEC’s current predicament is to unbundle services into three constituent parts – generation, transmission and distribution; offer services to private investors, alongside LEC, based on their demonstrated capabilities.
He also suggested the introduction of an independent regulatory commission to referee resultant competitive landscape; and maintained that opening the country’s electricity market to private investors (local and foreign) will enable Liberia to play its proper pilot role in the US$27 billion Obama Power Africa Initiative.

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