Overall responsibility for energy, power vested in Prime Minister's office
Stabroek News
May 14, 2002

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The National Assembly approved legislation last Thursday that now concentrates on the decision-making process in the energy and electricity sectors in the Office of the Prime Minister and confirmed the role of the Guyana Energy Authority as the advisory and monitoring body.

The legislation - Energy Sector (Harmonisation of Laws) Bill 2002 - was piloted through its Second and Third Readings by Prime Minister Sam Hinds, who when he moved that it be read a second time explained that its provisions were based on a review of the 1956 Hydro-power Electricity Act and the Public Utility and Electricity Sector Reform Acts of 1999.

The review was carried out by an American firm, Sale and Webster, which was assisted by a team of local experts and most of their recommendations that were accepted were embodied in the bill, the others were the basis of the guidelines that were promulgated in November 2000.

The Prime Minister explained that apart from amending various sections of the existing legislation it also made it possible for the private generating companies to sell electricity to other private companies at rates, which did not require the approval of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). It does not, however, remove the requirement for the PUC to approve rates to be charged to a public supplier by an independent supplier.

PPP/C backbencher, Odinga Lumumba, in supporting the bill explained that the legislation signalled to investors that there were no longer bottlenecks and that they could interact with the responsible minister who could issue an interim licence, which they could then use to raise capital.

With the clarification of its role as an advisory body, Lumumba said that the GEA would now be able to concentrate on the promotion and marketing of Guyana's potential in the sector in collaboration with the Private Sector Commission and Go-Invest.

GAP/WPA parliamentarian, Sheila Holder, the only opposition MP to speak in the debate, wanted to know the government's long-term plans for dealing with GPL's monopoly in the electricity sector.

She also expressed the concern that there was doubt in the public's mind about the element of transparency in the issue of licences but would be pleased if the provisions of the bill made transparency a reality.

Responding to Holder's concern about GPL's monopoly, the Prime Minister explained that normally where a monopoly existed there was a restriction on self-generation, but that the law allowed for anyone in Guyana to generate for themselves within the GPL area. Also, he said that from 2004, power generation would become competitive, a fact that GPL had to take account of. However, he noted that unlike many developed societies where there were separate arrangements for distribution, Guyana's infrastructure needed to be vastly improved to accommodate such an arrangement.

With regard to her concern about transparency, the Prime Minister pointed to the requirement in the procedure for issuing them - for all licences to be published in the Official Gazette.