EXPERTS EXPRESS LAPSES OVER NATIONAL ENERGY SECTOR POLICIES

By Muhammad Bah

During the recently held 3rd National Renewable Energy Forum at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, experts identified some of the lapses in the energy policies and expressed dissatisfaction regarding the way government deals with the private sector in particular, in the energy sector.

The forum was hosted by the Public Utility and Regulatory Authority (PURA) in collaboration with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), who invited experts from different countries around the world to dialogue on the policies of small scale renewable energy regulation and define the current energy situation and the way forward to the utility players in the country (NAWEC, PURA, etc).

NAWEC and PURA were present to listen to the suggestions made regarding the expected manner of operation of their companies in line with international best practice.

Private sector operators and other national participants were invited to dialogue exclusively on the theme ‘Policy for Small Scale Renewable Energy Regulation’.

Experts from the United States, Germany, Tanzania and The Gambia discussed the methods and ways to better operate utility companies. They also identified some of the lapses in the energy policies and expressed dissatisfaction regarding the way government deals with the private sector in particular, in the energy sector.

In his presentation, representing the private sector, Mr. Babucarr Saho the Business Development Officer at the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) shared the success stories of the Cameroonian utility company called SONNEL. He said when the company knew its depreciation, it entered into a private sector partnership in order to serve the needs of the people in Cameroon; adding that after several years the utility company was able to meet the energy demands of the population in the country. He pointed out the need to have a public/private partnership in institutions that are there to serve the people especially the public utility companies.

According to Mr. Saho, it’s only through effective and mutual partnership between the two that the country can meet the needs of the populace. He also highlighted how government frustrates private sector investment which is affecting national development.

A Gambian Lawyer Almami Taal pointed out the need to change the frameworks and strategies in the energy sector. He reiterated the point that the country should be into public/private sector cooperation rather than competition, highlighting the size of the population and the economy. Lawyer Taal stressed the need to partner these two teams to rapidly develop the energy sector.

The supervisor for Consumer Generation programs, California Public Utilities Commission Sara Kamins, said the reduction of the cost of energy to consumers is an important formula for public utilities working with the public to adopt. She stressed the importance of reducing the cost of energy and ensuring transparency in utility companies as a key element to serve the interest and receive understanding with their customers. Mrs Kamins highlighted that public utilities should ensure consumer protection which she describes as valuable to energy sectors.

Mr. Msafiri Mtepa, Manager, Financial Analysis and Modeling of Tanzania Energy and Water Utility Regulatory Authority (EWURA), said utilities should be reviewing their tariffs each year taking into account the capacity of their consumers. He also pointed out the need for transparency. He advised utilities to protect the interest of developers in the energy sector which he said is vital to ensure their growth as happened in Tanzania.