PURC Holds Its Second Utility Regulatory Conversation Series

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), in the twenty-five years of its existence, has used many tools of engagement with its Stakeholders including, but not limited to meetings, publications, solicitation of comments, technical hearings, and public hearings. These tools have been deployed for the following specific issues:

(a) The development of guidelines on tariffs, consumer complaints management, complaint resolution etc.

(b) The development of regulations and a decentralized system through the operation of 10 regional offices and consumer service committees

(c) Investments in digital tool to obtain feedback on the quality of service, and

(d) The implementation of transparency and accountability reforms for the benefit of all stakeholders among others.

As PURC heads into its third decade, it is an opportune time to strengthen systems for higher-level discourse in the sector. This is in line with the Commission’s quest to be a thought-leader in utility regulation.

In light of this, PURC has introduced the “Regulatory Conversation Series” to promote knowledge and expertise sharing at  the national and regional level. This trailblazing initiative is part of the Commission’s continual effort to enhance transparency and interest in its work, create a platform for experts to proffer solutions to regulatory challenges while serving as an educational tool for the public. Most importantly, it would help to refine the quality of professional input in policymaking.

The PURC Regulatory Conversations are intended to enhance the quality of national dialogue on regulatory issues, specifically in the areas of electricity, water, and natural gas in Ghana.  It presents insights on contemporary utility regulatory matters to a high- level audience of policymakers, development partners, other African utility regulators, utility executives, industry, academia, and regulatory staff.

The maiden edition of these conversations was held in October 2022, under the theme “25 Years of Independent Utility Regulation in an Emerging Economy: Positioning PURC as a Model of Excellent Utility Regulation on the African Continent”. This was delivered by Mr. Kwame Pianim, a renowned Ghanaian Economist. This conversation was undertaken as part of the Commission’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

 The second in the series of regulatory conversations, was held on April 20, 2023 under the theme:The Regulator in the Era of Economic Turbulence and the Energy Transition: Lessons from the Past and a Guide for the Future”. This was delivered by Mr. Wale Shonibare, Director, Energy Statistics, Policy and Regulation of the African Development Bank.

The event was chaired by the Chairman of PURC, Mr. Ebo Quagranie and had participants from industry; electricity utility service providers; academia; PURC’s main partner for the event, CalBank Plc, where the event was held; civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media. Mr. Carl Asem, Deputy Managing Director of CalBank Plc, on behalf of CalBank Plc, delivered a message from the Board and Management of the bank.  Mr. Asem noted that 40% of energy needs of the Calbank Headquarters is covered by solar PV, making it the leading green financial institution in Ghana.

In his official opening remarks, the Board Chairman of the PURC, Mr. Ebo Quagranie, indicated that, PURC being the economic regulator of the energy and water sectors in Ghana, intends to draw on the critical qualities of a series of dialogues through its regulatory conversations and its newly inaugurated center of excellence in utility regulation, located at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA). This will enhance knowledge and regulatory policy making in Ghana and beyond. He further noted that the Commission is working tirelessly to ensure that the energy needs of all sectors are met.

According to Mr. Quagrainie, “African Regulators have a crucial role to play in navigating through recent challenges caused by the Global pandemic to ensure the Energy sector in Africa is sustainable, reliable and cost-reflective

On behalf of the Honourable Minister of Energy, (Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh), a Deputy Minister of Energy in charge of Power, Hon. Owurako Aidoo, delivered a message from the Ministry of Energy and the President of the Republic of Ghana. According to the Deputy Minister, the theme for PURC’s 2nd Regulatory Conservation is apt, especially in a time of global economic turbulence. He noted that, these mutual engagements will further deepen the working relations between the Commission and the Ministry of Energy without compromising independence of the Commission. He further noted that as a precursor to this event, the President of Ghana launched the energy transition framework to guide Ghana to a sustainable transition from hydrocarbons to renewables in the next 50 years.

The Guest of Honour and main Speaker, Mr. Wale Shonibare, Director, Energy Statistics, Policy and Regulation of the African Development Bank, in his remarks on Energy Transition in Africa stated that, “Energy transition pathways are country-specific and should be driven by country-specific policy and regulatory interventions. Countries should identify optimal pathways and reflect this in their energy transition plans and not adopt a one-model fit-for-all approach as happened in the standard model for power sector reforms”. He advised African governments to promote the culture of saving so that there will be in-country capital for investments in the energy sector. He further called for reforms of the sector, including private sector partnerships, to ensure financially viable distribution companies. On regulation, admonished institutions to invest in systems that provides cost-reflective tariffs for a sustainable energy sector. He asked for regulators to continuously review the Bank’s Electricity Regulatory Index so as to improve on their practices. He called African government to place premium on independence of the regulator.

Mr. Shonibare congratulated PURC on its 25th anniversary milestone. He noted that, as one of the oldest regulatory institutions in Africa, PURC has made tremendous progress on the regulatory landscape of Ghana in particular and Africa in general. He further stated that the Bank was proud to have PURC as one of its key partners and commits to continue collaborating with PURC on future regulatory initiatives and dialogues.

According to Mr. Shonibare, “In fact, we have been following with keen interest, regulatory developments and trends in Ghana and I want to further acknowledge some important initiatives by PURC that are pushing the frontiers of good regulatory practice. These include the recent establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Electricity Regulation in collaboration with the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), publication of the rationale behind tariff setting, publication of the utility performance index and the publication of the PPA register among others.

The Executive Secretary of PURC, Dr. Ishmael Ackah, indicated that, Africa’s energy transition seeks to achieve universal access, affordability and energy sustainability as the main outcomes. He called for an optimal mix of renewables and other cleaner sources that can help achieve these goals.  He stated that, African Regulators must ensure that there is enough investments in research, local content and innovation in the transition so that Africa does not become a mere consumer of technology but plays a significant role in the innovation and production of solar panels and other technologies.   He further indicated that cheaper sources of domestic funding will be needed if Africa wants to benefit significantly from the transition.

According to Ing. Ziria Tibalwa Waako, Chief Executive Officer, Electricity Regulatory Authority, Uganda, Africa is transitioning from darkness into light and not just from fossil-based fuels to renewables. She called for funding, financial sustainability of the sector, collaboration between African countries and independence of the regulator as pre-requisite to achieve this transition.

On his part, Mr. Pinehas Mutota, General Manager, Economic Regulation - Electricity Control Board, Namibia called for investment in innovation and new energy sources such hydrogen and investment in cross-country grid systems to ensure that power can be traded across borders. He called from continual regulatory learning, implementation of long-term plans, competitive procurement of additional capacity and reforms to adapt to changes in the sector.

Mr. Nhlanhla Gumede, Regulator Member - National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) asked African governments to prepare to be ‘winners’ of the transition and not losers. He called for regional energy integration and interconnectivity to share the benefits of the transition as a continent.

According to Mr. Daniel Bargoria, Director General, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) of Kenya, “the challenge of access to energy in Africa must be addressed through education and the right governance to attain the finance needed for development in the energy sector, whiles harnessing our natural resources.”

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