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Fourth ERERA forum on regional electricity regulation to kick start today

Nov 20, 2013, 10:04 AM

Some 150 participants from West Africa and elsewhere are expected to attend the fourth annual forum on regional electricity regulation of the ECOWAS Regional Regulatory Authority (ERERA), which will take place today 20th and tomorrow 21st November 2013 in Banjul.

Designed to promote cooperation and exchange of information among the regulatory bodies of ECOWAS member states, the two-day forum will also serve as a platform for discussion aimed at regulators, operators, consumers and other stakeholders in the electricity sector in West Africa.

More specifically, the fourth forum will examine the place, roles and responsibilities of ERERA and the national regulators in speeding up the establishment of a regional electricity market in West Africa through the theme: ‘Fast-tracking the regional electricity market: the regulatory issues’.

Participants will critically explore sub-themes such as: the pre-requisites for establishing a regional power market; regional electricity market design and rules, funding mechanisms; and regional power infrastructure development, network access and tariff-setting for transmission, as well as best contractual practices and conflict resolution methods.

The theme reflects ERERA’s concern that regulation is central to the development process of the regional electricity market, which is being established to address the challenges of the limited size of most of the national markets within the region.

Major stakeholders to the forum will be drawn from the energy sector of ECOWAS member states, including the ministries in charge of energy and finance, national regulatory authorities, utility companies, parliamentarians, academics , researchers, consumer groups and other civil society organizations, banks and financial institutions, regional and international institutions, as well as development partners.

Ahead of the forum, technical experts gathered at the Kairaba Beach Hotel for a for a day-long consultative meeting.

In his official opening remarks, Abdoulie Jobe, Director General of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) said as regulators they would ultimately have to make the tough decisions that can be critical, especially concerning tariffs, “which in our region with its high poverty rates, can have larger socio-economic consequences”.

According to him, the consultative meeting is an important one in their quest to exploit our regional energy resources of which there is no scarcity in diversity and quantity.

‘‘We are all faced with the same fundamental issue: how to provide electricity to our people in an era of high economic growth. There is, therefore, no point trying to build our electricity infrastructure individually,’’ Jobe stated, adding that the example of Europe shows how very high reliability and adequacy of supply can be secured if nations come together.

Also speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the forum, Ibrahima Thiam, chairman of ERERA, said the vision of ERERA is to apply the highest standards of regulation to achieve a harmonized and efficient regional electricity market.

According to Thiam, the objective of ERERA is to regulate cross border electricity connection and trading among ECOWAS member states, through establishing a clear and transparent tariff setting methodology for regional power pooling, and also to facilitate the setting of a regulatory and economic environment for the development of the regional market.