Who is he?

CityPress - - Business And Tenders & Auctions - JUSTIN BROWN justin.brown@city­press.co.za

The new CEO of the state en­ergy reg­u­la­tor is look­ing to boost the watch­dog’s staff as part of his plans to im­prove the en­tity’s per­for­mance and speed of op­er­a­tion. Chris For­lee, who has a five-year term, said dur­ing an in­ter­view that the Na­tional En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor of SA (Nersa) had “ro­bust pro­cesses” in place and no rad­i­cal changes were re­quired.

In his new job, For­lee will be run­ning an en­tity that over­sees the elec­tric­ity sec­tor as well as piped-gas and pe­tro­leum pipe­lines. The watch­dog has been un­der in­tense scru­tiny amid sig­nif­i­cant en­ergy price hikes since 2008.

He said that Nersa had been crit­i­cised for tak­ing too long with its de­ci­sions and he would look to “op­ti­mise that”. For­lee said that he recog­nised the need for busi­nesses to get de­ci­sions in a timely man­ner.

There are also plans to grow Nersa’s per­ma­nent staff from 177 to about 220.

Shaun Nel, spokesper­son for En­ergy In­ten­sive User Group of South­ern Africa, which rep­re­sents the coun­try’s ma­jor in­dus­trial power users, said that For­lee was “ex­pe­ri­enced” in han­dling en­ergy mat­ters and that they had ev­ery con­fi­dence in him.

“The chal­lenge is to con­tinue to in­ter­ro­gate the ap­pli­ca­tions that Nersa re­ceives and to avoid un­rea­son­able in­creases in elec­tric­ity prices,” Nel said.

Nersa’s de­ci­sions have faced le­gal chal­lenges, es­pe­cially its de­ter­mi­na­tions re­gard­ing hikes in Eskom’s power tar­iffs.

Nersa and busi­nesses from Nel­son Man­dela Bay, or­gan­ised un­der the High En­ergy User Group, won a court rul­ing that de­clared the 9.4% in­crease that Nersa al­lowed Eskom as “ir­ra­tional, un­fair and un­law­ful”. This could force Eskom to re­duce its power prices this year to com­pen­sate for the un­law­ful in­crease. Nersa has re­ceived leave to ap­peal the judg­ment, but the case hasn’t gone fur­ther in court.

The same Nel­son Man­dela Bay busi­nesses have also brought a case against the tar­iffs that Nersa ap­proved for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to charge.

David Mertens, spokesper­son for the High En­ergy User Group, said this week that he hoped the new Nersa CEO would en­sure that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties only charge their cus­tomers cost of sup­ply and don’t add on a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin.

He also hoped that For­lee would put Eskom un­der pres­sure to be ef­fi­cient so that tar­iff in­creases could be con­strained and the econ­omy could see some growth.

“We hope that the new Nersa CEO will take our court cases se­ri­ously,” he said.

For­lee said that while Nersa’s pro­cesses were ro­bust, it wasn’t a bad thing that the watch­dog’s de­ci­sions were chal­lenged.

These chal­lenges would close the gaps that ex­ist in the reg­u­la­tor’s pro­cesses and “would guide Nersa how to im­prove”.

Reg­u­la­tory de­ci­sions were char­ac­terised by ten­sion be­tween the reg­u­la­tor and those af­fected by its

(pic­tured)

Chris For­lee has a tech­ni­cal and man­age­rial back­ground in the en­ergy sec­tor rang­ing from elec­tric­ity to oil and gas. He started his ca­reer at Eskom, where he had po­si­tions from grad­u­ate engineer to chief engineer from 1991 to 2003. From 2004 to 2007, he was a Nersa elec­tric­ity spe­cial­ist.

For­lee then worked for the depart­ment of pub­lic en­ter­prises from 2007 to 2012 in en­ergy po­si­tions. He was BP SA’s reg­u­la­tory af­fairs man­ager from May 2012 to Septem­ber 2014. From Septem­ber 2014 to Jan­uary 2015 he was an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant. Then from Fe­bru­ary 2015 to June 2016, For­lee was a Nersa pe­tro­leum pipe­lines man­ager. He was then ap­pointed act­ing full-time reg­u­la­tor mem­ber for pe­tro­leum pipe­line reg­u­la­tion from July 2016 un­til De­cem­ber 2016. In Jan­uary 2017, he was ap­pointed Nersa CEO.

He also serves on En­ergy Min­is­ter Tina Joe­matPet­ters­son’s min­is­te­rial ad­vi­sory coun­cil on en­ergy.

For­lee has a Gordon In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Science MBA and a Univer­sity of Cape Town Bach­e­lor of Science in elec­tri­cal and elec­tronic engi­neer­ing.

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