Under new electricity regulations approved by the Houses of Parliament, inspection and approval of electrical works are now expected to be executed more expeditiously.
This, as the supporting legislative regime will facilitate an increase in the complement of licensed electrical inspectors from the nine currently serving the island, thereby improving the turnaround time for the inspection process.
The ‘Electricity (Electrical Work, Registration and Licensing) Regulations, 2020’ is intended to digitise, modernise and transform the electrical inspection process, and bolster regulatory efficiency in relation to electricians.
Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, who piloted the Regulations during Friday’s (November 13) sitting of the Senate at Gordon House, pointed out that with nearly 35,000 inspection applications being received annually, the number of inspectors is not adequate to handle this work load.
“What occurs now is that the delays between submission of work for inspection and actual inspection are almost always unduly lengthy and frustrating for residential customers. Commercial entities seeking inspection are also adversely impacted,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, noted that the Regulations are being adopted pursuant to Section 55(1) of the Electricity Act, 2015, which provides for the privatisation of electrical inspection functions that were previously conducted solely by the Government.
“The Government will be unburdened of some of the operational aspects of conducting physical inspections within the electrical works industry, while maintaining quality and standards through regulation,” she informed.
She added that the anticipated increase in the number of licensed inspectors “will be a massive improvement in our developmental capacity”.
“The whole process, the framework for registration of electricians and… the means by which we access electricity, has been somewhat archaic. It has not kept pace with Jamaica’s developmental needs. [Additionally], due to the increase in the rate of electrification across the island and… commercial activities, there has been an increase in demand in the number of persons seeking to be connected to the grid,” she informed.
Senator Johnson Smith further pointed out that under the new regulations, clients will be assured of technically sound and compliant work conducted and passed by competent and regulated electricians and inspectors within a reasonable timeline.
“Jamaicans will be pleased to note that the process will be implemented through a digital platform that will ensure quick applications, quick notifications and alerts where there are issues or actions to be taken, seamless uploads and updating of their records, and the provision of feedback on applications,” she said.
Importantly, Mrs. Johnson Smith noted that the new electricity regulations will allow for the registration and monitoring of electricians, and will lay a framework for them to engage in continual professional development.
“So electricians can be confident that they will have their work inspected properly and certified so they can finalise jobs, move on to the next, [and] do more business in good time,” she said, adding that, of note, “is the possibility for individuals to be registered as both inspectors and electricians”.
Regarding the technical electrical assistant, who normally learns on the job from a senior electrician, Mrs. Johnson Smith advised that they will now have a formalised framework under which they will operate.
“This will be an opportunity to buildout more structured apprenticeship programmes, allowing for them to be formally engaged, formally trained and to lift themselves up and move up the line in terms of doing better and doing more as registered and regulated professionals,” she said.
Mrs. Johnson Smith indicated that consequent on Regulations’ passage, the Government “will facilitate the modernisation and [enhanced] efficiency of the electricity sector; increase compliance and industry safety…and public safety; and improve Jamaica’s competiveness in doing business in the global sphere”.
“The Regulations will create a more business and investment friendly environment. The World Bank Group’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranks Jamaica at 120 for the measure: ‘Getting Electricity’, and these regulations will vastly improve the procedural experience, both for residential and business applicants, and free up time for productivity,” she said.
The Regulations, among other things, also establishes the licensing, registration and enrolment processes; addresses matters concerning compliance with specifications, requirements for electrical work, notification of completion of electrical work and notification to the owner of the premises to apply for inspection of the electrical work; and deals with complaints and investigations.
The new electricity regulations, which were approved by the Senators present, were previously sanctioned by the House of Representatives on October 27.