May 2011 Utility Conference in Curaçao
Sometimes the things we hold onto most dearly are the things that hold us back. That was the message PURC Director Dr. Mark Jamison conveyed in his keynote address, Developing Regulatory Institutions: A Leadership Perspective, at a utility conference in Curaçao.
Describing the linkage between the purposes and problems of utility regulation, Dr. Jamison explained that there are five key features of successful utility regulation:
(1) An independent agency that is at arm's length from politics and stakeholders;
(2) An accountable agency that is constrained by laws, transparency, and review by an independent judiciary;
(3) An expert agency staffed by educated and well-trained professionals;
(4) An organized governance system that aligns authority, accountability, and communications for the public, policymakers, regulators, operators, and judiciary; and
(5) An organized industry whose structure and markets line up with system size and institutional endowments.
Even though these features have been well known and practiced for years, many countries fail to implement them because stakeholders are often unwilling to give up old ways, such as using politics to pursue self-interest, micromanaging utilities, and behaving opportunistically to build economic or political power. The event was organized by ASUC (an association of electric utility labor unions) and Kolaborativo (a commerce, union, and government initiative for social dialogue). About 75 government, union, and industry officials from Curaçao and Aruba attended.