Electricity (Amendment) bill 2023 set for debate in parliament

BY EDDIE OSIFELO

THE Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 is poised for a significant debate this week following the second reading presented by the Minister of Mines, Energy, and Rural Electrification, Bradley Tovosia, in Parliament on Monday.

Minister Tovosia highlighted that the primary objective of the Bill is to amend the Electricity Act (Cap 128) with the aim of enhancing and modernizing the country’s electricity sector, enabling the Solomon Islands to fully capitalize on positive developments within the industry.

“The current Principal Act has become outdated, with some of its provisions no longer serving the best interests of the public in the contemporary context,” Minister Tovosia explained.

One of the key issues addressed by the Bill is the high cost of electricity in the Solomon Islands, which has persisted for the past decade.

The government is determined to implement changes to address this issue.

Minister Tovosia noted that the country’s slow transition to renewable energy is partly attributed to the antiquated Electricity Act (Cap 128), which designates the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority (SIEA) as a vertically integrated utility with exclusive rights to supply electricity nationwide and self-regulate its operations and tariff charges.

Despite the SIEA’s financial strength and professional management, challenges remain, particularly concerning tariff affordability, transparency, the implementation of investment programs, and creating a favorable environment for independent power producers and small-scale self-generators.

The amendment of the Act is a result of studies conducted to enhance the electricity sector in alignment with key objectives outlined in the National Energy Policy.

These objectives include expanding electricity coverage, reducing electricity costs, decreasing reliance on imported fossil fuels (which increase electricity costs and harm the environment), reducing technical and non-technical losses, and boosting private sector involvement.

Additionally, Minister Tovosia emphasized that the Bill lays the groundwork for broader energy sector reforms, encouraging private sector investments in renewable energy.

It also paves the way for the integration of rooftop solar power into the grid, thereby increasing the share of renewable energy sources and decreasing reliance on imported diesel fuel for electricity generation.

Looking ahead, the proposed reforms include the unbundling of the corporate structure of Solomon Power, with the company transitioning to solely operate as a profitable grid entity in Honiara.

This transition would delegate the electricity generation component to independent power producers while focusing on extending electricity access to rural areas through the creation of a rural electrification company.

Parliament resumed its session at 9:30 AM today.

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