EGI: involve vulnerable groups more in Brazil electricity decisions

10-08-2009, Brasilia, Brazil

Vulnerable groups and communities of poor end-users in Brazil, the groups who are most drastically affected by energy policy, should be much more actively involved in decision-making during its development, according to the Brazilian Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI) team.

This can mean steps as simple as holding consultation hearings in locations that are easily accessible, and documenting and communicating the input gathered. It is essential for the public to understand how decisions are made in the electricity sector and how these decisions can impact their lives.

This is the most important of four major recommendations made by the Brazilian EGI, as part of a REEEP-funded project implemented by the World Resources Institute (WRI) that is also examining electricity governance in South Africa.  (project profile linked below)

The Electricity Governance Initiative itself is an international effort which seeks to promote open, transparent, and accountable decision-making processes in the electricity industry. In Brazil, the EGI has been led by the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) in cooperation with the International Energy Initiative in Latin America (IEI-LA) and the Environmental Sciences Laboratory of the Technology Center of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (LIMA-COPPE/UFRJ).

“In addition to the primary issue of public consultation, the Brazilian EGI identified transparency, accountability and capacity-building as three other key areas for action.  These are more than a simple wish list. They are a carefully-crafted output of an international EGI methodology for measuring electricity governance. The toolkit was developed over two years of robust research and analysis, and incorporated the input of more than 100 international experts. It has been used in assessments of electricity governance in India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, between January 2005 and March 2006.  It is comprised of 68 indicators that analyze the decision-making processes in the sector, and 58 of these were used in the Brazilian assessment,” says Smita Nakhooda of the World Resources Institute.

The EGI indicators address four basic elements of good governance: (1) transparency, (2) public participation, (3) accountability and (4) capacity of decision-makers and other actors. They are divided in two groups according to the decision-making process: electricity policy indicators and regulatory indicators.  Each question is rated on a five-step scale ranging from Low to High.

The Brazilian assessment found that the key actors involved in the policy-making processes are highly qualified and competent.  However, public participation within the decision making process and transparency of these procedures remains low.  So the Brazilian EGI team decided to focus on the indicators pertaining to the issue of public participation, leading to the Brazil-specific recommendations of more robust and effective procedures for public consultation. These may include broader release of analytic documents upon which policy is based, as well as clearer guidelines for participation in the policy making process.

The Brazilian EGI also recommended that measures are taken to build the capacity of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), other ministries, and the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL) to deal with social and environmental issues.  It recommends that the government provide dedicated resources to increase the capacity of civil society to participate in the decision making process.  This could take the form of the government offering and facilitating training seminars to selected organizations.

As part of the same REEEP project, an assessment of electricity governance in South Africa is being conducted using the same EGI methodology. There, a launch workshop held in July 2008 and a consultation workshop in November 2008 focused on barriers to effective implementation of energy policy.  An assessment report and recommendations is currently being finalized and will be available by the end of August 2009. .

“REEEP is pleased to support the Electricity Governance Initiative because it provides a comparable international methodology for promoting good electricity governance” notes Marianne Osterkorn, the organisation’s Director General, “and it highlights the importance of directly involving the public when considering how to structure energy policy.”

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