Minster of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, has said that liberalisation of the energy sector is set to gather momentum and will soon result in full competition in the provision of electricity.
To fast-track the process, and ensure that the new energy policy is developed and implemented in a seamless manner, Mr. Paulwell has invited Cabinet to consider a proposal for the establishment of a National Energy Council, to be chaired by him, with the Opposition Spokesman on Energy, Gregory Mair, as his deputy.
The Council, he said, will be a "broad-based, consultative entity” with representation from key stakeholders including the Opposition, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), renewable energy entrepreneurs, as well as consumer advocacy groups.
The Minister was addressing the American Chamber of Commerce's (AMCHAM) Energy Forum on Thursday (February 9) at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
According to Mr. Paulwell, competition will serve to drive down costs while pushing the quality of service up. He said the current high cost of electricity is untenable and inimical to the conduct of profitable businesses in Jamaica and will not be allowed to continue for much longer.
He stated that the government will facilitate and encourage the entry of those wishing to invest in the sector and allow them to make their choice of energy source. Critical to the process, he said, is a reliable grid, maintained at the highest level and accessible to all, who wish to compete.
The choice of energy source, the Minister pointed out, will not be limited to conventional sources, such as oil, natural gas and coal, but include nuclear energy, which is among the cheapest generators of electricity.
Seeking to calm fears about the danger posed by damaged nuclear reactors, as was the case in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsumani last year, the Minister argued that the technology, which is now being used to provide nuclear energy, is safer, less susceptible to damage, and can be more economically deployed.
He emphasized, however, that it is the market that will influence that choice of energy source, and competition will ensure the cost benefits.
"As the government, our position is this; we must investigate all options available to us and aggressively pursue those that are most viable and sustainable. As we search, there’s only one thing that’s off the table; we do not want to get into a situation where we swap one single dominant fuel source for another,” he declared.
He argued that “dependence on a single, dominant fuel source makes our nation extremely vulnerable to external shocks, and if we are serious about improving business competitiveness and improved productivity, we cannot afford to leave our fate so exposed.”
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter