Work intensifies for formation of NERCThe Energy Ministry has intensified talks with the Law Ministry to get its legal consent to establish the Nepal Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), a powerful body to regulate the country’s energy sector.
The Energy Ministry has intensified talks with the Law Ministry to get its legal consent to establish the Nepal Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), a powerful body to regulate the country’s energy sector.
Energy Ministry officials have been repeatedly visiting the Law Ministry asking it to approve a regulation required to operate such a commission. More than two months have passed since the Energy Ministry sent a draft of the Electricity Regulatory Commission Regulation to the Law Ministry, but nothing has happened.
Irked by the delay, Energy Minister officials including the joint secretary have gone to the Law Ministry several times over the past couple of weeks requesting it to speed things up.
“We have held several rounds of discussions with Law Ministry officials, and we have gone over to the ministry asking them to approve the draft regulation,” said Dinesh Kumar Ghimire, spokesperson for the Energy Ministry. “During these meetings, they assured us that they would return the draft regulation with their feedback very soon.”
The Energy Ministry is planning to take the draft regulation to the Cabinet for its approval as soon as the Law Ministry provides the go-ahead. After the Cabinet endorses it, the Energy Ministry will start the process of establishing the commission. The regulation will pave the way for the ministry to begin the process of establishing the NERC secretariat and hiring staff including the chairman.
Although the plan to form the NERC was floated a decade ago, Parliament only endorsed the Electricity Regulatory Commission Act in August 2017, opening the way for its establishment. President Bidya Devi Bhandari signed the bill into law 91 days later.
However, the process of establishing the commission was held up as a new government was being formed and senior Energy Ministry officials did not want to bring the commission into operation before the new administration took over.
The NERC will supersede the existing Electricity Tariff Fixation Commission and set the charges that customers will have to pay to the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the state-owned power utility. The commission will fix the electricity tariff after holding a public hearing.
The commission, according to the regulation, will also establish a code that various entities under its jurisdiction will have to follow. The code will specify standards for the construction of hydropower plants, transmission lines and distribution networks. It will also determine the voltage that will be supplied to customers by the utility.
The commission will even have the authority to determine the power purchase rate for the state-owned power utility. Currently, the NEA is the sole buyer of electricity in Nepal, and it has been fixing the rate it pays to hydropower projects.