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NWC wants lower light bills, look to solar

Published:Thursday | November 27, 2014 | 11:00 AMDaraine Luton

WITH THE National Water Commission (NWC) being the largest single company being served by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), the water entity has asked the power company to provide it with preferential rates to help reduce its cost of providing the commodity.

"What we have been trying to say to the JPS is, 'Look here, we need some discounts. We are a wholesaler'," said Kingsley Thomas, president of the NWC.

Thomas told Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) that 97 per cent of the cost of producing water relates to electricity. He said the NWC pays approximately $500 million each month in light bills.

But Kelly Tomblin, the head of the JPS, told The Gleaner yesterday that while it was in support of a wholesale rate, it would be discriminatory to give such privilege to the NWC alone.

Tomblin also noted that the JPS had proposed a wholesale rate to the Office of Utilities Regulation, but that suggestion was rejected last year.

"We can't give a preferential rate to the NWC in and of itself. We would love to give a wholesale rate, which is typical to your largest customers," she told The Gleaner.

CONSIDERING SOLAR FARMS

Meanwhile, in response to a suggestion from South East St Elizabeth Member of Parliament Richard Parchment that the NWC seek to tap alternative sources of energy to power its operations, Thomas said he has been thinking of setting up at least two solar farms.

The NWC chairman revealed that his entity has ignored proposals from entities which wanted to supply it with solar energy as the price was too high.

"We have looked at a number of renewable-energy proposals, especially solar, and when I look at it, and then when we were looking at the 366MW plant and I was hearing of US$0.22 per kilowatt-hour Ö and the bid that I got was US$0.27 for solar, I said, 'Let me hold strain and see what comes out of the 366MW [project] instead of committing to US$0.27'," Thomas revealed to the PAAC.

Now on his way out of office, Thomas said the NWC should consider establishing solar farms in two locations: Spur Tree in Manchester, and Martha Brae in Trelawny.

He said those areas have extremely high electricity rates.

Using the case of Martha Brae, Thomas said the NWC is spending $16 million per month on electricity bills, an amount which is set to increase twofold when work is completed to double the plant's capacity.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com