Mon | Sep 21, 2020

Letter of the Day | Minister Williams, learn from the missteps of NIDS when crafting energy policy

Published:Thursday | October 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM


One year ago, I wrote a letter to The Gleaner, which was titled ‘Restructure PCJ Now’. A number of my peers did not understand my call, as they felt that was too radical a suggestion.

Fast-forward 12 months, and not only is the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica being restructured, it is being taken over by its parent ministry and its functions absorbed by the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.

While I did not see the restructuring going that far, I for one can understand why such a move could be necessary. I can foresee a day when some type of an energy corporation is reformulated, but for now, I will take the minister’s word that there really were precious little options available to the Government.

I am sure that my letter was not the basis of this decision, but I would like to offer some gentle advice to Minister Williams. Please learn from the missteps of NIDS when crafting energy policy.

There is a perception in Jamaica that the funding requirements for NIDS helped to contribute to the haste of passing the National Identification and Registration Act, which was summarily overturned. Recent announcements in the media of the development of an electric vehicle (EV) policy has led to similar utterings in the public space, as it seems that this is also being driven by multilateral loans.

If this is the case, please tread carefully. I, for one, find it curious that the Government has taken this approach, as none of the other fuels in the transportation sector has a policy to the best of my understanding. So why single out EVs?

Just as there are solar independent power operations, wind and now LNG firms in the renewable and clean power sector, there is no single solar or wind or LNG power policy, but instead there is an overarching renewable energy and clean energy policy. So why not focus on an overarching alternative fuels policy first, and why seek loans from multilaterals for policies that can impact our energy security.

Let us not put together another hasty policy and/or act, which is being rushed by loans from international funders, which does not meet the real needs of our country.

Henry Durban