Finally, the long-awaited, much-promised Bill to create a new regulatory agency – the Botswana Regulatory Authority (or BERA ) - to oversee energy matters in Botswana has been passed by the Parliament of Botswana. All that remains is for the President to sign the Bill into law and his signature is expected imminently.
During the years of the legislative process the thorniest issue has been whether to create a multi-sector agency. For a long time it was planned for the authority to oversee the water sector as well but this was dropped at the last. So now its focus will be limited to the energy sector, which the Bill defines as “…sectors dealing with electricity, petroleum products, coal, natural gas, bio-energy, solar energy, renewable energy resources and other energy resources”.
The Authority will be overseen by a Board consisting of 4 full-time members and 4 part-time members, all to be appointed by the Minister for Minerals, Energy and Water Resources. There is also to be a Chief Executive Officer responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the Authority. The CEO will also be appointed by the Minister, in consultation with the Board.
BERA arrives at a time when there are a number of private and international investors looking to launch power generation projects in Botswana. There is not as yet a timetable for the establishment of the Authority. For investors the period while a new regulatory body is finding its feet and exercising its powers for the first time can be unsettling. But this is a significant first step in adapting and updating the legislative framework in Botswana to better support the necessary new investment in increased generation capacity in the country.
One of the next steps is expected to be promulgation of new regulations to update and set out in greater detail the licensing procedures of the Electricity Supply Act. Until now the Act has provided minimal guidance on licensing procedures, for the understandable reason that the only generator has been the state-owned Botswana Power Corporation. But this situation is now changing. More detailed regulations are urgently required to guide potential investors in generation. Again, draft regulations have been in existence for several years now and it is to be hoped that these can soon be formalised.