The Utilities Regulatory Authority (URA) has commenced its second round of Public Education Programs (PEP) for the communities of Southwest Efate that have access to the UNELCO Electricity Grid.
URA is continuing to educate the public on the two main topics ‘the Roles and Functions of the URA’ and ‘the UNELCO Electricity Price’.
The Southwest Area Councils covered so far are Mele and Pango. Under the Mele Area Council, the URA team visited the Mele community on the 14th of August, the Prima and Bukura communities on the 18th of August, the Cascade Estate community on the 22nd of August, and the Melemaat community on the 25th of August 2023.
At Pango, the URA team conducted PEP sessions at the Pango AOG Church on the 5th of September and at the Pango Central school area on the 6th of September 2023.
The overall outcome was relatively good as indicated by community representatives. URA conveys its appreciation to the community members who attended the sessions and encourages the information gained to be shared with relatives and friends who did not attend the sessions.
While most of the concerns raised resonated with those already brought to the Authority’s attention during previous PEP sessions, there were a few customer queries that are worth mentioning.
During the PEP sessions, concerns were raised concerning customer meters that are installed relatively far from the customer residences, resulting in customers improvising to use aerial cables to connect their premises to their meters in a manner that is, in most cases unsafe. This exercise is now becoming a rising safety concern, as evident at the Mele river-side, where a lot of aerial electrical cables are seen being pegged on poles across the river from a meter to an individual’s residence.
The URA team explained that according to the Concession contract signed between UNELCO and the Government, UNELCO’s responsibilities end at the customer meter, after which the customers are responsible for connecting their premises to their meters. At the moment, there is no in-country legislation to standardize the wiring of customer premises, but the URA is aware of a ‘Safe Electrical Works’ bill drafted by the Department of Energy which is pending Parliament endorsement. Once gazetted, it would give relevant authorities the legal grounds to effectively enforce proper and safe methods of wiring customer premises as required.
Concerns were also raised concerning the accessibility and availability of resell points for smart meter refilling at the various communities visited. The URA team took note to continue liaising with UNELCO on this matter.
At Bukura, a query raised was on whether or not the electricity price should have been reduced as a result of existing solar and wind farms operated by UNELCO. The URA team explained that the existing renewable energy power sources only contribute to a small portion of the total power required daily by electricity customers on Efate. The bulk of required power is generated by diesel generators that are costly to operate due to the diesel fuel required to run these diesel generators. This cost amounts to about 47% of the overall cost to generate and supply electricity on Efate, which is included in the customer’s monthly electricity price.
At Pango, queries were raised on the possibilty of establishing a hydro power station on Efate. URA Team responded that past feasibility studies have indicated that a decent size hydro that is sufficient to offset a significant portion of the power produced by existing generators on Efate is not viable. However, with evolving technology, the hydro option can be revisited in the near future.
When the question on the significance of reconnection fee was asked, the URA team explained that this is provided for under the customer agreement signed between the customer and UNELCO, to cover costs related to disconnecting and reconnecting a customer meter.
On the question of which meter is better, the URA team explained that both prepaid and postpaid meters charge the same rates according the customer tariff structure in place. However, prepaid meters give more control to the customers to better manage their power consumption.
Rental or lease of land where cables and poles are installed was a query raised across most PEP sessions. In response the URA Team explained that exisiting legislations enable UNELCO to install transmission and distribution infrastructures inside existing easements alongside public roads without the need to pay any fees or rental. Customers were reminded that if there were any rental it will be paid for by customers through the tariff and not taken out from UNELCO’s profits.
Even though the presentation targeted electricity customers, concerns/queries were also raised regarding water supply systems at these various areas. At Mele and Melemat, a common query was raised on whether or not UNELCO can take over their water supply systems, or extend its water supply network to supply both communities.
The URA understands that a technical study had been undertaken in 2018 by the Government in partnership with Vanuatu Service Engie, to determine the possiblity of UNELCO taking over a number of small water systems in the peri-urban areas around Port Vila, including the Mele water supply system. Hence the concern customer was informed that it is now up to the Government to pursue this option further.
At Prima, a query raised was on the possibilty of UNELCO extending its water network to service the residences in that area. At the moment only the primary school at Prima and a few residences close to that school are connected to UNELCO’s water supply system, whereas the majority of Prima community use water tanks to store rain water or drill boreholes to pump water and have it supplied to their individual households. The URA takes note to further address this matter with the relevant authorities.
Upcoming PEP sessions will be carried out at areas under the Area Councils of Tanvasoko, Ifira, Erakor, and Eratap. The PEP sessions target the communities that currently have access to the UNELCO electricity grid.
The Authority staff are liaising with respective community leaders to confirm dates, venues and times of upcoming PEP sessions. Customers will be advised accordingly once the schedule has been finalised. Information provided by URA at these awareness sessions are important for a customer and user of the electricity service to know and understand as it will be the individual in his/her decision making on electricity usage.
The URA is liaising with relevant authorities to address urgent concerns and queries raised by customers at the visited communities.
Customers are also encouraged to check out the Authority’s website at www.ura.gov.vu and facebook page for uploaded updates going forward, or visit or call the URA Office on office phone number 23335. You can also email us at