ISLAMABAD: The federal government has approached provinces to win their support in its bid to amend the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) law, aimed at tightening the noose around the regulator for allegedly overbilling consumers.
Representatives of provincial governments met with officials of the Ministry of Water and Power on directives of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to deliberate on proposed amendments to the Nepra Act 1997.
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The huddle, chaired by Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, was attended by chief ministers of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as well as chief secretaries of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. The meeting comes in the backdrop of a tussle going on between Nepra and the Ministry of Water and Power, which has alleged that K-Electric earned an additional Rs62 billion from Karachi consumers because of excessive tariff determination.
The regulator responded that no excess tariff had been charged from K-Electric consumers as a uniform tariff was applicable throughout Pakistan including the area covered by K-Electric.
In the meeting, it was agreed that Nepra law would be amended in an attempt to put in place an efficient and reliable power system to improve the country’s energy security.
This, they noted, would require modernisation of the regulatory framework and developing Nepra into an institution, which meets the highest standards of independence granted to the electricity regulators globally. At the same time, indemnities against acts done in good faith were also proposed to strengthen decision-making and independence of Nepra, while empowering it with strong tools of regulatory enforcement.
These include powers to undertake investigations and slap penalties for violating the laws governing the electricity sector. These powers did not previously exist in the Nepra Act. The representatives of federal and provincial governments agreed to the measures introduced for strengthening the composition and regulatory powers of Nepra, including better qualification criteria for the chairman and provincial nominees on the regulator.
Moreover, in order to achieve the common objective of federal and provincial governments to move towards a competitive electricity market, a consensus was developed on de-licensing power generation while at the same time making provisions for licensing in the areas of electricity trading and retail.
In order to reduce the burden of litigation on civil courts, an appellate tribunal comprising technical and financial members, and chaired by a former high court judge, was also recommended, which is expected to provide independent, speedy and efficient relief to persons aggrieved by an order of Nepra.
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For enhancing the transparency of regulations to better serve consumer interests, the requirement of declaration of direct and indirect conflict of interests by the members and chairman of Nepra as well as its employees of Nepra was also inserted.
It was agreed that further discussions on the language of the draft would be held at the technical level for arriving at a consensus on the proposed amendments and including proposals of the provincial governments. The draft was proposed to be submitted to the CCI for approval under the constitution and would then be presented to parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2017.
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