Papua New Guinea energy sector faces two-month state of emergency


The Papua New Guinea Government last week announced an extraordinary state of emergency in the electricity sector in a bid to fix the revenue problems faced by state energy utility, PNG Power.

A public notice released by PNG Power last week.

A public notice released by PNG Power last week.

For a 60-day period, which commenced on 8 January, the Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Micah will have extraordinary powers to take companies and individuals to court for non-payment of bills and illegal use of electricity. PNG Power can also call in police and soldiers to protect its workers as they go about the country disconnecting illegal power users.

People and companies with outstanding bills or illegal connections must contact PNG Power by 13 January or face disconnection and fines of K100,000 for individuals or K500,000 for businesses, or face six months in prison.

According to Minister Micah, PNG Power is owed K138 million, with 30% of the power generated by PNG Power being illegally used. The single largest culprits, he noted, were government organisations.

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While an unreliable power supply is consistently named as one of the major hindrances to business in Papua New Guinea, the move has been met with a mixed response from the business community.

‘It is hard to see the reasoning behind  declaring a state of emergency when agencies such as Police and PNGDF (albeit with a call-out) have the powers to do what is now being said they are there for i.e. protect PPL employees in carriage of their duties,’ David Conn of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and industry told Business Advantage PNG.

‘It is to hoped this will clean up those recalcitrants who have been “stealing” power. However, it  is difficult to see how the cost of the SOE will be justified when the main defaulters are government departments. Who are they going to arrest ? What are they going to disconnect?”

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