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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ

Questions about the URA's role and functions

Questions about the price of electricity and water

Questions about the consumer's responsibilities

Questions about the monopoly

Questions about renewables

Other questions

Tips about electrical safety

 

 


 

URA

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 my 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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PRICES

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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The main costs associated with water are: electricity, medications, staff salaries, and side effects.               
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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.          

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 the 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.

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

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RESPONSIBILITIES

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.

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MONOPOLY

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.
Learn more

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RENEWABLES

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.

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OTHER

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.

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ELECTRICAL SAFETY

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.

ASK PROFESSIONALS!

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