ENERGY MINISTRY DELAYING ELECTRICITY BILLS

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    April 6: Hydropower Development Policy, an elaborate document of Nepali hydropower sector, was introduced 15 years ago. But the policy has not been translated into laws and brought into implementation accordingly.

    Stakeholders of hydropower sector say hydropower laws that date back to 1990s do not address problems seen in hydropower development. They have been demanding that the government bring new laws, particularly Electricity Act and Electricity Regulation Act. But works to bring these laws are moving ahead at a slow pace.
    Officials of Ministry of Energy have been working on those laws for the past one and half months. They have been repeatedly asked to table draft of those bills to parliament. But instead of giving finishing touches to draft, ministry officials are preparing new drafts.

    When Republica questioned energy secretary Suman Prasad Sharma why the need to prepare new drafts arose, he said new drafts have to be prepared as per the spirit of the new constitution and the National Energy Crisis Reduction and Electricity Development Plan 2016 unveiled on February 19.

    The energy ministry’s latest move will throw the plan to endorse the much-awaited laws into uncertainty until, at least, mid-August — the deadline set by the government to table both the laws in the parliament.
    Sharma told Republica that they have already received consent from the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and Ministry of Finance to draft new laws, including the bill for National Energy Crisis Reduction. He said the proposal to draft new laws will be tabled in the cabinet very soon.

    Electricity Bill 2008 and Electricity Regulation Bill 2008 were tabled in the parliament in 2008. Lawmakers had held rigorous discussion on the bills and filed many amendment proposals. The ministry of energy was asked to amend bills accordingly. But it never happened.

    Government officials say the bills couldn’t be endorsed because of clash of interest and lobbying groups in the parliament.

    Gagan Thapa, chairman of Agriculture and Water Resources Committee of the parliament, says he is frustrated by the delay in getting those bills endorsed. But even Thapa cannot explain reasons behind the delay.
    The committee, so far, has issued three deadlines to the energy ministry to table the bills in the parliament in the past one and half years. The latest deadline was issued two weeks ago only.

    “I have repeatedly asked the energy ministry officials to table the draft in the parliament. But they seem reluctant. I don’t know the reasons behind this,” he added. “I had told them to table the bills, assuring that I would help to forge all party consensus to get them approved.”

    According to officials, these laws overhaul licensing regime of hydropower projects and introduce competitive bidding for licenses of hydropower project. Similarly, Electricity Regulation Act paves the way for the government to form a regulatory authority for hydropower development – a major policy reform in the sector.

    But it is said that a section of private sector wants to delay the laws as they fear it will limit opportunities. Independent power developers, particularly those handling small projects, do not want licensing on first come, first served basis to end. Many developers keep project idle but sell licenses to make fast bucks.

    Officials also say that Nepal Electricity Authority is also reluctant as it will have to unbundle its transmission, distribution and generation services if the laws are approved.

    Source : Republica