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Story Highlights

  • The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) Act has been amended to enhance transparency and investor confidence within the electricity sector.
  • The Bill, which was piloted by Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, was passed in the House of Representatives on October 13.
  • In his address, Mr. Paulwell noted that investors have repeatedly expressed concern as it relates to the seeming lack of transparency with the mechanism being utilised to set tariffs for the electricity sector.

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) Act has been amended to enhance transparency and investor confidence within the electricity sector.

The Bill, which was piloted by Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, was passed in the House of Representatives on October 13.

In his address, Mr. Paulwell noted that investors have repeatedly expressed concern as it relates to the seeming lack of transparency with the mechanism being utilised to set tariffs for the electricity sector.

“The OUR amendment Bill will seek to address these matters by requiring the Office of Utilities Regulation to be guided by not only the amended legislation, but also the new Electricity Act, the amended all-island electric licence and certain principles, when setting tariffs for the electricity sector,” he noted.

Mr. Paulwell added that an expanded governance framework is being proposed to the Office, which is the decision-making arm of the OUR.

He pointed out that after extensive research and consultation, the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team submitted recommendations to Cabinet for changes to be made to the legislation and policy environment of the electricity sector, to enhance and improve the governance of the sector and to ensure the alignment with global best practices.

Section four of the Principal Act has been amended to require the OUR to set the rates in relation to electricity in accordance with the OUR Act and any regulations made thereunder, and the Electricity Act.

“Section four of the Principal Act is also amended to require the OUR, when setting rates to take into account the following: the interest of consumers in respect of matters, including the cost, safety and quality of the services, Jamaica’s economic development, the best use of indigenous resources and the possibility of including specific tariffs to encourage the regularisation of, and payment for electricity usage by consumers who are unable to pay for the full cost of the services provided,” Mr. Paulwell informed.

Section 16 of the Principal Act has also been amended to allow the OUR to make regulations prescribing the procedure for analytical tools to be used in determining the tariffs applicable to prescribe utility services for the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and use of electricity.

Amendments to the Act will also facilitate the inclusion of non-executive members to the Office of the OUR.

“Currently, the Office consists only the Director General and such number of deputy directors general as may be appointed.  The Bill will now expand the Office to include non-executive member .This will enhance independent view of recommendations and decisions,” Mr. Paulwell said.

For his part, Opposition Spokesperson on Industry, Karl Samuda, welcomed the Bill, while questioning how the non-executive members of the Office will be selected.

In his response, Mr. Paulwell said four members of the non-executive will be appointed by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

He added that one member of the non-executive will be appointed by the Governor-General, under the recommendation of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.

The Bill will be sent to the Senate for its approval.