Resuming the regulation of public services is not the only change that President Gustavo Petro seeks to make in this sector. He is also pointing to reform laws 142 (public services) and 143 (electricity law) that were created in 1994 to shield Colombia from a new blackout.

Precisely, tomorrow will be 30 years since the end of the 11 months of energy rationing that Colombians had to live between 1992 and 1993 due to a series of errors that led to the only blackout in the country’s history.

(Also read: Thirty years after the blackout: the country reviews lessons in the midst of the current debate)

In the midst of this situation, EL TIEMPO learned of a first draft of a bill that details the changes that are to be made and that are being led directly from the Presidency, according to the distinguished Ministry of Mines and Energy. What is known up to now has already started to set off alarm bells.

One of the points that generates the most concern is that it is established that the networks used for the provision of public services, such as electricity, are public goods if they were built with State resources or with part of the fee paid by users.

It is necessary to see the glass more than half full and do the best and the adjustments within the institutionality and without destroying what has been built

Experts consulted assure that this is the same as saying that, by paying a taxi fare or an air ticket, users can own the taxi or the plane, which does not make sense. Ideally, they suggest, is that whoever makes the investment —whether public or private— be remunerated.

Another point is the power that would be given to the Superintendency of Residential Public Services to certify the quality of the regulation issued by the Energy and Gas (Creg) and Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation (CRA) commissions.

Why should the Superservicios, which is control and surveillance, monitor the regulation issued by the Creg? Does this mean that the Superintendency will be a superior entity to the Creg? These are some of the questions generated by this government proposal, since connoisseurs of the subject consider that the control and surveillance body must be independent of the regulator.

The experts say that the most important thing must be that there are incentives for the sector to continue expanding, it can increase coverage, improve service qualityreduce losses and modernize networks into the future.

Meanwhile, Juan Benavides, an associate researcher at Fedesarrollo, assures that, although the Electricity Law is solid, it does require numerous tactical changes so that it adjusts to the new reality, but without affecting the current scheme, since this is the one that has avoided new rationing and has made it possible to increase the coverage and reliability of the electric power service.

«You have to see the glass more than half full and do the best and adjust within the institutional framework and without destroying what has been built,» he added.

Below are 12 key points that are mentioned in what is a first draft of the bill that has about 50 articles.

(Also read: With the threat of intervention by Petro «companies would prefer to leave»)

Universal Service Fund

A Universal Service Fund is authorized, both for drinking water and basic sanitation and for electricity. One of the options proposed to finance it is a special consideration of 2.5 of gross income obtained by public or private companies for the exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources.

Another alternative is for the money to come out of the General Participation System and the Foes.
In either case, these resources would be intended exclusively to increase coverage and provide the vital minimum in these public services.

In addition, the Government will allocate at least 20 percent of the resources of the Foes and the Single Fund for Information and Communication Technologies (Funtic) to the execution of local universal service programs, which will be executed through the departments and their capitals.

Networks for services will be public goods

The networks for the provision of public services belong to whoever pays for them, says the draft. Therefore, those that have been built with State resources or with part of the tariff paid by users, will have the quality of «public goods» collectively owned and the provider may remunerate its operation, replacement and maintenance, but not the value of the network that has not been covered».

Earnings for company employees

It is also proposed that utility companies allocate part of their profits to make an annual recognition of their workersin a single annual payment that does not constitute wages, nor is it a factor for the settlement of labor benefits.

More freedom for service providers

Assemblies and councils may not impose taxes on state companies that are not applicable to mixed and private companies. It would also be allowed companies can provide other non-residential services or carry out another type of activity, only if they can carry out their own activities and carry out their accounting independently from that of public services.

Superservicios will certify the regulation

Through an Administrative Unit for Tariff Matters, the Superintendence of Residential Public Services would be in charge of certify the quality of the regulation and carry out monitoring, surveillance and control activities in order to guarantee that all companies apply the regulation in full compliance with it.

New uses for the Foes

The resources of the Social Energy Fund (Foes) they would no longer be used only to subsidize the electric power service, but also the gas serviceand the municipalities would be in charge of regulating the advice of these monies.

In addition, you must define a policy of universalization of internet access and appropriation of information technologies, which could be provided through decentralized entities.

(Also read: GEB and Enel confirm risk of blackout in Bogotá due to opposition to key projects)

Special regulation to provide public services

The associations, corporations, foundations, cooperatives or communal actions that
wish to provide residential public services They will not be subject to the ordinary regime that applies to other providersbut a special regulation will be created by the Government directly or by the regulation commissions

Self-generation of ‘clean’ energy

The Government intends to authorize, by general means, so that all people can
generate energy for themselves
or for third parties, as long as they are «non-polluting sources». For this, the Government directly, or through the Creg, will establish the rules that will allow the new generators to inject this energy into the National Interconnected System (SIN).

Vital minimum in public services

The vital minimum that will be recognized in drinking water would be 50 liters per person per day, while in electricity it would be 103.8 kilowatt hours, however, its recognition will be subject to several conditions. there will also be a internet vital minimumbut it is not yet specified how much it would be

Rights for single users

The figure of mono-users is created, which will have the same rights and protections that are currently granted to home users, such as connecting to public service networks and receiving subsidies.

In addition, they could be the owners of network components that are used for the provision of services, not have measurement, nor generate special costs marketing.

utility company partners

Territorial entities or their decentralized entities may participate as partners in any type of public service company official, mixed or private.

And in companies in which the State is the majority shareholder, the draft of the project says that «all necessary measures will be adopted so that this majority is reflected in the shareholders’ meeting, in the board of directors and in decision-making relevant to the administration and existence of the company.

Users on company boards

One third of the members of the boards of directors of state companies, of the departmental or municipal order, will be elected by the users through their development and social control committees.

Control members or any other citizen may be electedas long as he is not a public servant and meets the professional qualities and experience that the
Government determine.