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Cabinet puts appointment of Electricity Regulatory Commission officials on hold

- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu

Jan 25, 2019-

The Cabinet has stalled the Energy Ministry’s plan to appoint former energy secretary Anup Kumar Upadhyay as chair of the Nepal Electricity Regulatory Commission. The Commission is a powerful body that will oversee the country’s energy sector, fix the electricity tariff, set construction standards for power infrastructure and take over other vital functions.

The Energy Ministry sent the proposal to appoint Upadhyay as the head of the Commission more than three weeks ago, but the Cabinet has not given the go-ahead. The selection panel led by Irrigation Secretary Sanjay Sharma has also recommended Ram Prasad Dhital, Rameshor Prasad Kalwar, Ram Krishna Khatiwada and Bhagirathi Gyawali as members of the Commission.

According to multiple sources at the ministry, the Cabinet has been holding back approving the selected candidates because Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is reluctant to name Upadhyay to the top post.

“The Cabinet is yet to respond to our proposal, but it seems like the names recommended by the ministry will not be approved,” said the source seeking anonymity because of a restriction on speaking to the media. “We are unsure about our next move in the absence of a formal communication from the Cabinet.”

The latest development indicates that Upadhyay, who resigned as energy secretary to hopefully lead the Commission, is unlikely to get the coveted position. Eighteen aspirants had applied for the top positions at the Commission. Five applicants including two former energy secretaries—Anup Kumar Upadhyay and Shree Ranjan Lakaul—applied for the post of chairman while 13 others submitted applications to become members.

The delay in appointing the office bearers of the Commission has pushed back its establishment although an act to form such an institution was endorsed by Parliament more than a year ago. The Commission will supersede the existing Electricity Tariff Fixation Commission and set the charges that customers will have to pay to the Nepal Electricity Authority, the state-owned power utility. The commission will fix the electricity tariff after holding a public hearing.

The commission 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 also have a full mandate to determine the power purchase rate for the state-owned power utility. At present, the Nepal Electricity Authority is the sole buyer of electricity in Nepal, and it has been fixing the rate for the purchase of electricity from hydropower projects. Also, the power utility has to obtain the Commission’s approval to sign power purchase agreements with project developers.

Published: 25-01-2019 09:05

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