On 2 April 2015, new members of the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) were elected by Parliament.
This is the first EWRC panel to be elected by the Parliament, following changes to the Energy Act in March 2015 to make it an independent body.
Previously, the EWRC’s members were appointed by the Government but serious problems in the sector from 2012 onwards resulted in persistent Government interventions to change the EWRC’s chairperson and members and exert control over its decisions.
These interventions made it impossible for the EWRC to perform its regulatory powers as an independent professional body and led to questions in Parliament about its independence.
The new nine-member EWRC panel has representatives from almost all political parties in Parliament. Most of the members are well known energy sector experts, which has fuelled optimism in the industry that the commission will again be able to function normally.
According to officials, the next step towards reducing political influence on the energy regulator is to procure its financial independence. This is because the recent changes to the Energy Act did not alter the way the EWRC is funded - mainly through fees collected from the businesses it regulates, the levels of which are determined by the Government and not by the commission itself.