Minister says plan to get other players into the electricity sector still on track despite LNG deal
Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell has underscored his intention to break up the Jamaica Public Service's (JPS) monopoly on the transmission and distribution of electricity, even as concerns grow that the company has been given a greater control of the sector.
Several concerns have been aired since Tuesday when Paulwell announced that the Government has decided - as reported by The Sunday Gleaner - to abandon its plan to introduce liquefied natural gas (LNG), and allow the JPS to take on that project.
"The Government is quite clear in relation to our policy on electricity," declared Paulwell as he scoffed at claims that not every member of the administration is on the same page.
"Having achieved competition on the generation side of the business in 2004 and having seen that at work, we are now focused on the distribution side," added Paulwell.
He said the Government's plan to break up the JPS monopoly does not envisage other companies setting up power lines and grids to transmit and distribute electricity across the island.
"What we are determined to introduce is a system that will allow for interconnection to the existing grid. It (the grid) is known as an essential facility and there is emerging law that allows that."
According to Paulwell, the Government's plan is to enable real competition by allowing others to interconnect through areas such as net billing, which will allow persons who own renewable-energy generators such as wind turbines and solar systems to generate electricity for personal use while selling excess energy to the JPS.
The Government also intends to encourage competition in the electricity sector through wheeling.
"(That is) a significant development which is to happen soon and will allow an (electricity) generator in Manchester, who has a business there, to wheel electricity from Mandeville to his other business in Kingston ... .
"So I want us to be quite clear that what we are seeking is to use that grid, to unbundle it, and to allow people to access it to achieve greater benefits for our people. And it is going to happen," said Paulwell.
According to the energy minister, the Government has taken the LNG project as far as it can and it is now up to the JPS to introduce natural gas to the country's energy mix to drive down the cost of electricity.
Paulwell said the JPS will source the gas, establish the regasification mechanism and operate a new power-generating unit in Old Harbour, St Catherine, using LNG.
He argued that with the JPS driving the process to introduce LNG, the cost of electricity to Jamaican should be lower than it would have been if the Government was in charge.
Paulwell argued that the JPS, through its parent companies, will be able to use its commercial muscle to arrive at deals which the Government could not get and this should make the price of electricity to the Jamaican consumer about 30 per cent cheaper.