What does the Utilities Regulatory Authority do?

The URA is the economic regulator for electricity and water service providers in Vanuatu. We promote the long-term interests of consumers by setting maximum prices; setting reliability and safety standards; assisting with customer disputes; and providing advice to Government about issues related to electricity and water services. Our aim is to ensure that Vanuatu has fair, efficient and financially viable electricity and water industries.              
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Does the Authority set policy for the electricity and water sectors in Vanuatu?

No, the URA does not have the power to create policies. The Government of Vanuatu plans for the development of the electricity and water sectors. The URA can provide advice to the government on issues related to electricity and water utilities.                
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Does the Authority regulate oil and gas?

No, the URA only regulates the electricity and water industries. It does not regulate oil or gas.
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Does the Authority regulate telecommunications?

No, the URA only regulates the electricity and water industries. The Telecommunications and Radiocommunications Regulator (TRR) regulates telecommunications.
Learn more: www.trr.vu

Is the Authority a utility?

No, the URA is not a utility. It is a statutory body established under the Vanuatu Parliament’s legislation: the Utilities Regulatory Authority Act No. 11 of 2007.
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Does the Authority provide financial assistance?

No, the URA does not have any financial aid program nor is the URA a financial institution.
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How is the Authority funded?

The URA is an initiative of the Vanuatu Government, with additional financial support from AusAID through the Governance for Growth (GfG) Program in cooperation with the World Bank. It also receives funding from the Vanuatu Government through a budget passed in Vanuatu’s Parliament.
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Which government ministries oversee the Authority?

The relevant government ministries for the URA are: the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, the Ministry of Lands, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Ministry for Climate Change Adaptation, Geohazards, Meteorology and Energy.
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How does the Authority make its decisions? How long does it take for the URA to make a decision?

The URA goes through a comprehensive consultation process to allow stakeholders to provide feedback at the very beginning of the research, then at the draft decision stage. The responses are considered before a final decision is made which may also be challenged as an internal review or a judicial review. 
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How can consumers share their views before the Authority publishes a decision?

The URA will always actively consult with all stakeholders before making a decision. Anyone can share their views with us by email, phone, letter or in person. Any response marked confidential will be treated as such by the Authority.                
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Can the Authority help with consumer complaint against a utility?

Yes, one of the functions of the URA is to assist consumers with enquiries and grievances. Complaints may be brought to the URA if they could not be resolved directly with the utility.    
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Can I have a prepayment meter?

The URA is currently in discussion with a utility to extend a trial project in the Efate concession. Consumers in Malekula and Tanna already have access to prepayment meters. The Authority has published several reports on the topic, which are available on the website. 
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How can I reduce my electricity bill?

The URA runs a Public Education Program, and one of the topics is “Managing your electricity consumption” to help consumers understand how to reduce their bill.                
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What is included in the price of electricity and water?

The main costs associated with electricity are: fuel (diesel and coconut oil), staff salaries, and infrastructure investments.                
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The main costs associated with water are: electricity, treatment chemicals, staff salaries, and infrastructure investments.                
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Why does the price of electricity and water change every month?

The prices of electricity and water are automatically changed to take into account fluctuations in fuel and other input costs. This is to ensure that utilities are able to cover their costs in-between tariff reviews every 5 years.           

Why do water bills come on a quarterly basis and electricity monthly?

The billing periods are defined in the relevant legislations and concession contracts.
Learn more: electricity water


Does URA set the price of electricity and water services in Vanuatu?

Yes, URA does set the maximum price that a utility can charge for the provision of a regulated service to its customers. 


What are the processes involved for setting up a price?

The processes involve for setting up a price are as follow: the utility has to first submit a tariff application to the URA. The URA will review and analyse the application and if needed, may request for additional data. After the analysis the URA will publish its preliminary decisions and undertake a public consultation to obtain comments from the stakeholders and the general public. Comments taken from the consultation will then be used by the Authority to come up with its final decision of the price that the utility will use.


Does Base price and Tariff mean the same thing?

Base Price and tariff are the rates used by the electricity and water utilities to calculate customer bills. Base Price or commonly known as price is the rate that is determined by URA after a tariff review for a utility to use for a certain period (normally five years) and will remain the same throughout that period. Whereas tariff is the actual rate charged to customers and is calculated by inserting the base price into an adjustment formula. Unlike base price, tariff will slightly fluctuate throughout the period taking into account factors such fuel price, inflation rates and others on the adjustment formula.


What is tariff structure?

Tariff structure is an economical practice of applying different tariffs to different customer categories with the goal of ensuring that electricity and water services are affordable to all customers and at the same time ensures that the utilities receives their required revenue to remain operational. An example of tariff structure is where residential customers have a tariff that is different to that of a commercial customer. In fact, residential customers are normally cross subsidized by large or industrial consumers.


Do residential customers receive any forms of subsidies from the government for electricity supply services?

No, Residential customers do not receive any direct subsidies from the government for electricity use. Low users are subsidized by larger electricity users through a URA approved cross subsidy scheme implemented by VUI and UNELCO.


If I want to know more about price setting, can the URA help me?

Yes, the URA has staffs that are in charge of setting the price and they will definitely provide you with a more detail explanation of how the price of a regulated service is determined.


What is my responsibility as a customer?

Consumers are responsible for the electricity and water installations on their property after the meter. Consumers are also responsible for their consumption and payment of their bills.

Who owns the street lights and pays for it?

Street lights within a municipal boundary are owned and managed by municipal councils.  Outside of municipal boundaries or where there is no municipality, provincial governments own and manage street lights within a provincial centre. Street lights installed outside a municipal or provincial centre are usually owned by communities and individuals. UNELCO and VUI may be contracted by owners of street lights to operate and maintain the lights. The operation and maintenance of street lights is not limited to electricity utilities.

Who owns the water networks?

The Government owns assets in Port Vila, Luganville, Isangel, Saratamata and Lakatoro. UNELCO operates on behalf of the government in Port Vila.  Some networks are owned by a individual or a community.


Why is there no competition in Vanuatu's electricity and water sectors?

Electricity and water sectors are natural monopolies which means it would not be viable for more than one network to exist in the same area.

Can the Authority break the monopoly?

No, the URA does not have the power to change the structure of the electricity and water industries in Vanuatu. This would require significant policy and legislative change.
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What role does the Authority play in the geothermal project in Takara?

The URA’s role is to provide advice to the Government upon request and to ensure that any project similar to this one is in the long-term interest of the consumers.

Can I self-generate?

In Vanuatu, the generation of electricity falls under the scope of the Electricity Supply Act No. 13 of 2011. According to the Act, a person who is not a concessionaire may generate electricity without geographical limitation to the exercise, thus an individual or business located in a concession area is allowed to self-generate. However, in addition to these rules, contractual obligations defined in concession contracts established between the government and private sector companies contracted for the provision of electricity services in concession areas apply. They define the safety and security measures for operating and which operator works on the electrical network. Each contract describes any electrical installation beyond the meter (serving point) as a customer’s inner installation, and does not allow the connection of electricity generation devices through inner installation (in parallel) to the network (feed-in) without pre-approval from the service provider who is, by definition, responsible for the safety and security of its employees and consumers interacting with the network.


What happened to the Sarakata Fund?

The provisions allowing for payments into the Sarakata Fund expired when the concession agreement in Luganville ended on 31 December 2010. The funds were reverted to the Government. Today the rules around financing of the electricity network in Luganville are defined in a contract (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Government and VUI. This is a temporary arrangement until a new concession agreement is finalised.

How do i get a connection and do i have to pay for the whole cost?

You need to contact the electricity or water utility operating in your area to be connected. The utility will usually advise you on the connection charge. Further questions on cost should also be directed to the utility as they vary greatly depending on the location of your house in respect to the connectivity point on network.


Why am I not connected to the electricity service even though an electricity line runs few distances from my premises?

The line that runs few distances from your premises are three phase lines. In order for you to be connected, there has to be a transformer installed that will set the characteristics of the electricity in the three phase lines to a suitable level that you can use at your home. A transformer is typically expensive and utility only placed it in an area where there are a lot of customers so that the recovery cost for the transformer is possible in a required time. In other words, it’s expensive to put a transformer that will supply only few customers who may take time to recover the cost of the transformer and connections.
Unless you can pay for you own transformer, the utility will connect you immediately.


Does the URA determine the areas where electricity or water services are to be extended to?

No, the URA does not determine the areas where electricity or water services are to be extended to. The determination is within the discussion of utilities and the Vanuatu government. The URA only do checks to see if the extensions are done as planned in order to verify the cost associated with them as part of the tariff review of the utility.


What are some major factors that may qualify an area for extension of electricity and water services?

An area may be regarded qualify for an extension of electricity or water if the area has a lot of customers willing to be connected to the services and also if the area is located within a close distance to the existing network.


What shall I do to ensure that my community or area can be connected to the utility  provided water and electricity services?

For a community or area to have access to a utility service, a community/area representative(s) may approach the utility responsible to obtain information on how a community can get connected and the costs associated with such a connection. After approaching the utility the representative(s) may contact the URA to obtain further assistance if they wish.




Electricity contributes to your comfort, but it can be dangerous if you are not careful. It is forbidden to touch the cables underground and overhead. You must be very careful when you're near a power line.

Here are ten tips to help you avoid accidents.

1. Do not touch electrical wires that fell on the ground: it may be live. Immediately contact an emergency service Unelco.
2. Do not play with kites or other flying objects near and above the power lines, and do not throw objects at the power lines.
3. Do not climb utility poles.
4. Be careful with electrical antenna cables when working on your roof.
5. Be careful when you cut the trees near the power line and notify the utility in advance.
6. Be careful with electrical cables underground when digging, and notify the utility if you are not sure where they are.
7. Be careful with power lines when moving your ladder.
8. Do not touch bare electrical cables.
9. Never use electrical appliances when you are wet (hand or body).
10. Be careful with temporary electrical installations and always use good quality cables.

Home Safety

Before doing any electrical or wiring work, you must turn off your circuit breaker. All electrical connections made below the appropriate safety standards may lead to short-circuit causing a fire.


Who are the Customers under the URA Act?

Under the URA Act, customers are the people who receive and pay for the services of electricity or water provided to them by Utilities. 


What is a utility under the URA Act?

Utilities, as briefly mentioned, are the providers of the electricity and water services to the customers in exchange for payments. Utilities that are currently providing electricity in Vanuatu are UNELCO (operating in Efate, Tanna, Malekula), VUI (Vanuatu Utilities Infrastructure) on Luganville. 

Water Utilities are: UNELCO in Port Vila, Public Works Department (PWD) on Luganville, Isangel, Lakatoro and Saratamata and small scale private water supply providers that register with the URA as Small Water Suppliers (SWS). Some examples of SWS are Beverly Hills and Bellevue SWS, Teoumaville SWS and Narpow Point SWS all located on Efate.


What is a regulated service under the URA Act?

Electricity and water supply services in exchange for payments are considered as regulated services under the URA Act.


What kind of complaints can URA assist a customer with?

URA can assist customers who have complaints with any aspects of a regulated service (Electricity and Water).These complaints may be related to new connection, billing error, applicable tariff, consumption, disconnection, quality, safety or any other matter related to the regulated service.


What must a customer do first before approaching the URA for assistance?

A customer has to first bring his complaint to the regulated utility concern prior to approaching the URA. If the customer is not satisfied with the response he gets from the utility, he may then approach the URA for assistance to resolve his complaint.


What does URA have in place to help customers resolve their complaint?

The URA has in place a Consumer Complaint Dispute Resolution (CCDR) rules that spells out the process and responsibilities of the stakeholders (URA, Utility and Customer) for resolving disputes between customers and utilities. Utilities are aware of their responsibilities in these rules and are mandated to do as required by the rules to resolve customer complaints.




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