'THESE ARE EXCITING TIMES FOR REGULATORS'.

Author:Ofori, Mami Dufie
Position:Interview
 
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Mami Dufie Ofori

Executive Secretary, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission

Mami Dufie Ofori tells James Gavin about Ghana's efforts to develop its energy sector and encourage investment into renewables.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has developed a long-term energy policy. How did this happen?

The PURC was borne out of an energy crisis that Ghana experienced from 1995-96. Under the country's economic reform programme the PURC--the economic regulator--and the Energy Commission--the technical regulator--were created. Between 1997 and 2010, regulations were put in place to direct the performance of the utilities.

We developed a guideline to let the public know how we would set our rates. In our part of the world, it's important that you get people to support you, especially when you are preparing to increase tariffs, to ensure that the utilities were financially viable. We also established offices nationwide so that people could have access to us, as phone coverage is very low. It has enabled us to access information and, at the same time, become a referee between the utilities and the people, enhancing the collaboration between them.

We then used our experience to help put in place the National Energy Policy in 2010. This ensured that we had the legal, physical and regulatory environment to attract investment, especially in the renewable energy sector.

What are your policies on renewable energy?

The PURC's key contribution was the establishment of a feed-in tariff mechanism to encourage people to invest in renewables, so that they can feed into the grid. People have set up solar systems to feed into the system.

Our current target for renewables is to achieve 10% in the generation mix percentage by 2020. That may be overambitious as currently renewables make up just 1%, so it may take us a bit longer to reach it.

What about encouraging private-sector participation?

Because the PURC was set up as an independent regulator, the tariffs we established have given investors the confidence to put money into power generation. In fact, in 1997 we had just one independent power producer. Now we have more than 10, which tells you how rapid the investment has been. In fact, electricity coverage in Ghana stands at 82%, one of the highest on the continent.

We have encouraged a wide energy mix. Initially, those coming in were just thermal systems and hydro, but then gas was introduced after offshore oil and gas reserves were discovered...

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