Senate Passes 2015 Electricity Law

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After several public hearings, followed by weeks of work in committee rooms culminating in a final debate yesterday, the Senate unanimously voted during its 5th day of extraordinary sitting to pass the 2015 Electricity Law of Liberia.
The bill entitled: “2015 Electricity Law of Liberia,” was submitted to the Legislature for consideration in July by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. It was subsequently sent to the Joint Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment; and Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petition.
Another bill with similar content was also sent to the lawmakers by a civil society electricity advocacy group, BRESCELCO, a month earlier.
According to the Senate Committees’ findings, the main 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 committees, 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.
Based on findings as a result of the hearings and contentions raised by members of the Senate plenary prior to yesterday’s debate, the 14-member Joint Committee submitted a seven-point recommendation to plenary which was adopted.
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 committees 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 committees recommended.
No later than the end of the first year, which marks the beginning of a two-year transitional period, the committees 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.”
Giving a summary of the report before submission to plenary, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, Albert Tugbe Chie, said the recommendations will go a long way to enhancing the provision of cheap and reliable electricity.
Senator Chie allayed the fears of most of his colleagues that government involvement as regulator will drive away investors from venturing into the electricity sector.
He reminded them that despite the government serving as regulator in the mineral and other sectors, investors are still coming to the country.
The Grand Kru County Lawmaker said building the capacity of regulators will take over a year and must not be treated as an emergency. Other senators suggested however that Liberians in the Diaspora, who have capacity in that area, should be encouraged to come home.
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.

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