20 years have passed since the establishment of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). In 2000, 63 members of the Saeima voted for the establishment of the PUC. At that time, the Saeima entrusted the PUC with approving the tariffs of regulated companies, as well as monitoring the quality of public services, which the PUC continues to perform today. In honour of the institution's anniversary, the PUC looked back at the events that took place over the last 20 years during the conference held on 16 June 2021.
Intars Birziņš, Head of the PUC, explains: “The PUC was established in Latvia 20 years ago; however, it gained full independence in 2011. During these 20 years, we have strengthened our capacity, improved our knowledge and competence, and worked on improving the regulatory framework. Our development path has been followed in the long run by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which has acknowledged our activities and development progress in 2021”.
Jeffrey Schlagenhauf, OECD’s Deputy Secretary-General, points out: “The PUC is committed to increasing the impact of its regulatory activities and final outcomes for consumers and the economy, as attested by its engagement with the OECD review processes. Coming back to assess progress of recommendations made in 2016, the OECD finds that PUC has made substantial advances in implementing the agreed recommendations, such as the introduction of incentive-based regulation, a more robust fee-setting process, and the establishment of an advisory council. Going forward, we recommend that PUC continue its efforts in improving performance reporting”.
The sectors regulated by the PUC have undergone significant transformation over the last 20 years. For example, wholesale tariffs between mobile operators have decreased from 11.2 cents to 0.7 cents per minute in the mobile network, and to 0.07 cents per minute in the fixed network. Competition and regulation have also led to significant reductions in the prices for Internet services. For example, watching five minutes of a Youtube video while roaming in 2015 would have cost 35 euro and taken 50 minutes. At the time of the establishment of the PUC, only 4% of the population in Latvia had access to the Internet, while today the figure is 97%.
Thanks to the PUC’s role in the market, the universal service in the postal and electronic communications sectors is available to everyone in Latvia. The energy sector has also changed over the years. New players have entered the market, such as aggregators and active users. Consumers are becoming more active and interested not only in promoting energy efficiency and optimizing costs, but also in participating in energy production themselves.
The speakers at the anniversary conference included Head of the PUC Intars Birziņš, PUC’s Board Member Rota Šņuka, and Directors of the PUC Departments, as well as invited guests – the President of the Republic of Latvia Egils Levits, Speaker of the Saeima Ināra Mūrniece, OECD’s Deputy Secretary-General Jeffrey Schlagenhauf, Auditor General Rolands Irklis, Board Member of Augstsprieguma tīkls Gatis Junghāns, LMT President Juris Binde, Conexus Baltic Grid’s Chairman of the Board Uldis Bariss, President of the TEN section EESC Baiba Miltoviča and representatives of foreign regulators.