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Energy worries

Published:Monday | February 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

There are fresh fears in the local energy sector that the planned introduction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) could be further delayed.

But new Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell is expressing confidence that plans to have LNG-powered plants operating in Jamaica by 2014 are still possible.

The planned introduction of the LNG project is already two years behind the initial schedule and Paulwell has announced that a two-month extension of the deadline for infrastructure bids for the proposed project has been granted.

He said the extension was approved by the Chris Zacca-led LNG steering committee based on a request from two of the infrastructure providers for a two-month extension of the bid deadline in order to allow them to complete commercial arrangements.

Paulwell claimed entities, including the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) which are setting up LNG, will not be short-changed.

"I have been assured that we are making every effort to ensure that the timeline for completion of the new plants and the infrastructure are synchronised with the timeline for completion of the delivery of LNG," said Paulwell.

He said the new Portia Simpson-led government is committed to LNG as one alternative energy source.

"We know that LNG is a relatively clean, environmentally friendly option that provides tremendous opportunity for efficiency improvement and cost reduction," said Paulwell.

"In this regard, the Government is committed to implementing the LNG project, and we are doing everything to ensure that the project is properly structured commercially, and that the appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks are in place," Paulwell added.

He noted that the steering committee, which was established under the previous administration, would remain intact with the exception of two members who have been changed.

"That group will continue to do the work it started. Last week, the committee met and considered the progress being made and the key actions to ensure successful project implementation," Paulwell claimed.

But the energy minister failed to address several issues, including the fact that the introduction of LNG is now two years behind schedule.

Paulwell also failed to indicate the amount of money already spent by the steering committee, although Gleaner sources say US$5.5 million has already been spent with a request being submitted for a further US$4.5 million to take the project to a stage where a preferred bidder is selected.

In addition, there was no word from Paulwell about the source of the LNG which industry experts say will be a major problem for Jamaica.

However, Paulwell was clear that LNG would not be the country's only option.

According to Paulwell, "as the Government, our position is this: we must investigate all options available to us and aggressively pursue those that are most viable and sustainable.

"And as we search, there's only one thing that's off the table: we do not want to get into a situation where we swap one single dominant fuel source for another."