Mon | Aug 21, 2017

JPS jolted by licence-review suggestion

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2017 | 1:00 AMJovan Johnson

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is preparing for a battle with the Government over any attempt to review its operating licence.

The JPS was put on its guard last Friday when Government senator and chief technical adviser to the finance minister, Aubyn Hill, declared that the Andrew Holness-led administration is obliged to review the licence of the light and power company because of threats to the Jamaican economy.

Opening the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, Hill called for a review of the modified licence issued to JPS last January, because it "seems to be quite opposed to the interest of Jamaicans".

"We have to look at that licence carefully [and] as a new Government, we're obliged to," Hill told his parliamentary colleagues.

But Kelly Tomblin, the president and chief executive officer of the JPS, in a quick response, rejected Hill's reasons for questioning the changes to the licence and expressed the hope that his comments would not suggest that Holness will shred the contract.

"I'm sure, similar to how the Government has continued on the framework for fuel diversity, that this Government certainly wouldn't suggest that a licence negotiated in good faith, in which the JPS has made investments, would be negated by a subsequent government," said Tomblin.

"Surely, he's (Hill) not suggesting that," added Tomblin.

In his Senate presentation, Hill argued that he was making the call from his position as a senator.

"Because I may have some influence on policy, I do not lose my right as a senator to bring up independent issues. My position is quite different from a recommendation, and if I gave a recommendation I probably would not be speaking on it publicly," said Hill.

The international banker argued that the replacement of the price cap regime with the revenue cap in the licence "could dampen economic growth" because JPS's growth is no longer tied to that of the economy.

"A good argument can be made that the revenue cap approach blunts any incentive on JPS's part to support the expansion of renewable sources of energy or to improve efficiencies in their current business," said Hill, who is the chairman of Innovative Renewable Energy & Electronics Limited.

He said giving the JPS the right of first refusal to replace generating plants due for retirement entrenches the company's near-monopoly and is inconsistent with international standards and Jamaica's national energy policy.

 

'Inaccurate conclusions'

 

Tomblin rejected those claims, arguing that Hill was making "inaccurate conclusions".

"We negotiated with the Government for our licence amendments that we believe serve the country. We have about 31 guaranteed standards that are monitored by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).

"Our overriding goal is to support economic growth. This (Hill's arguments) requires a more fulsome discussion with the utility," said Tomblin.

Hill's call came days after the OUR announced new regulation which should give it more power to monitor the operations of the JPS and other entities which generate or supply electricity.

The regulation will govern the operational standards and established procedures for handling the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and dispatch of electricity across the island.

According to the OUR, the regulation adopts five grid codes, which are generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and dispatch.

"The codes, which were finalised in August 2016, have been developed in parallel, and are designed to be used in conjunction with each other," said the OUR.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com