Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, has said negotiations will commence this week towards the process of liberalising the island's energy sector.
“We’re moving with those negotiations with earnest this week. You’d have seen some shadow boxing taking place in the public. I think we can move on now, we intend to, and very soon, you will see a transformation taking place,” he stated at a recent board meeting of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, held on the Mona campus.
The Minister said the time has come to transform the energy sector and to introduce a fully competitive arrangement that “will see competition from the generation side right down to the retailing of electricity. So, we intend to facilitate an inter-connectivity arrangement with the owners of the grid so that anyone will be able to generate and supply consumers directly."
He argued that it is only through a competitive environment that businesses will be forced “to look keenly at technologies that are far more efficient than those currently being used, and to look at fuel sources that will provide the least cost to the consumer and improve the quality of service delivered”.
“I think we have to introduce competition now to enable consumers to assert the power in the marketplace and to ensure there is free and fair competition. We are committed to that and it is going to happen,” he added.
Minister Paulwell said it is important that the transformation occurs quickly to prevent a mass movement away from the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), as consumers become more frustrated.
He pointed out that consumers can now secure loans for equipment to generate their own electricity for between US$0.18 to US $0.20 per kilowatt hour (KWh) compared to US$0.40 per KWh being generated by JPS.
“My message to JPSCo is, we need to send that signal to the consumers immediately to introduce competition, to open up the market, to provide hope so that our people can anticipate this change, and not be moving to our own systems overnight,” he stated.
Minister Paulwell, in the meantime, said Government will “definitely be moving away from heavy fuel oils and diesel and pursuing the natural gas project. Coal is in abundance in the region and Petcoke, which is even cheaper than coal, will also be part of the mix,” he stated.
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO