Gaolathe calls for water, power regulator

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 July 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Ndaba Gaolathe Ndaba Gaolathe

The MP for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe’s private member motion in which he requested government to establish water and power regulator has received support from the minister responsible. Presenting his motion on Friday, Gaolathe called for the establishment of regulatory authorities for both water and power. He said that if structured and implemented properly, benefits of having a power and water regulator far exceed the costs in the intermediate and long term. Gaolathe cautioned that any delays in pursuing this approach will result in the bleeding of government through the loss of billions of Pula incurred by subsiding the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and Water Utilities Corporation (WUC). “Delays will further result in structurally high cost of production of both water and power (electricity and other forms of energy) which will adversely compromise access for low income families,” he reasoned. Lack of the regulatory body for both power and water, according to Gaolathe, will also result in high costs which he said will tend to dissuade investment in other sectors of the economy, especially those that are energy and water intensive.

Gaolathe, who showed confidence on the performance of the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila, said the absence of a regulator creates unpredictable and opaque environment within the energy and water sector. This, he said, is at the expense of meaningful and timely investment in the water and energy sectors, investments which he added government cannot be expected to match by quantum or effectiveness. “Botswana is missing out on an opportunity to be a leader in power sector, which leadership position can create potential for significant export revenues, in the tune of billions of Pulas, “said Gaolathe, who is also the President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). On the benefits of having the regulatory body, Gaolathe said that if everything is done right it will lead to the country having security and adequacy of supply and low cost of production and retail price of energy and water.

To achieve its objective in having power and water regulatory body, Gaolathe said Botswana needs to concern itself with several regulatory domains for both power and water. The domains are economic regulation, which will among other thing deal with pricing, regulation of monopolies and facilitate open access and trade. On social regulation domain, it will deal with access to an affordable power and water supply, consistent with aspirations for social and economic inclusion and use in authorisation domain which the Gaborone Bonnington South MP said will relate to authorising usage commensurate with policy regulation of particular sectors or activities with conditions that are informed by norms and standards. One of the issues that have been raised was the quality of portable water in Botswana and Gaolathe said that the introduction of quality and standards domain will address that. On how the regulators will be structured, Gaolathe said that it is necessary to unbundle them to bring alternative players in some of the spaces. “The obvious space that is ripe to accommodate competition is the power generation space and to some extent the power supply space,” he pointed out. In his response to the motion, Minister Mokaila wholly supported it, saying they have already made progress in establishing the Energy and Water Regulator.

In his State of the Nation Address in 2010 President Ian Khama promised the nation that a regulatory body will be established for water and power sector but five years down the line it is yet to be established. In 2012  the Botswana Energy and Water Regulator (BEWR) taskforce was set up to establish a regulatory framework for the energy and water sector but its findings are yet to published. Last year in November United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation Professor Leo Heller while visiting Botswana said that lack of independent regulatory body has led to poor water quality and unfair tariffs imposed on ordinary people.