Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
ENERGY MINISTER Phillip Paulwell is blaming the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for the delay in the implementation of power wheeling.
"I have had to chastise them for failing to meet the deadline set for end of August to provide certain critical data," Paulwell told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
Wheeling is a mechanism by which individuals who generate electricity may transmit this across the JPS grid for their own use.
Paulwell has pointed to wheeling as critical to reducing the cost of energy, particularly for persons who produce it cheaper than the JPS.
The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has said it will not be in a position to implement wheeling until it conducts research to determine the costs involved.
Zai Mian, the director general of the OUR, told The Gleaner that the JPS was asked to do a study which should have been given to the OUR. That study would have determined, among other things, the price to be paid for wheeling.
Mian said a consultant is being brought on board and an independent study is being done to determine the way forward.
"We cannot say wheeling is here until we have all the necessary costing and all that in place. Not knowing what will be the necessary charges and all that, how are we going to implement wheeling?" Mian remarked.
He told The Gleaner that "for wheeling implementation, we need to know exactly what the cost of wheeling is, so that anybody who is going to do the wheeling would know that is what it is going to cost me if I do the wheeling."
In the meantime, the OUR, in a ministry paper tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said it has turned its attention to the creation of a regulatory framework for the effective and transparent implementation of wheeling rates.
The regulator said it anticipates the "increased responsibilities that will come with the extension of regulatory oversight to more sectors of the economy and recognises that it plays a major role in Jamaica's economic transformation and development."
The regulator has identified the lowering of utility cost, improving competitiveness, and the modernising of utility infrastructure as special responsibilities.
Paulwell told The Gleaner that similar to what was done earlier this year when the Telecoms Act was amended to give the OUR powers to set interim interconnection rates for the termination of telephone calls across networks, he will be seeking to have the law amended to have similar effect on the cost of electricity.
In pressing the need for additional powers, Mian said, if the OUR does not have the enforcement powers, the operators can always ignore its determination.
"We should be able to say that, if you don't comply, then this is the penalty you will have to pay," Mian said.
In the meantime, Paulwell was unable to give an exact date for the implementation of power wheeling.
"I'm still insisting that implementation be done by the end of this financial year."
Mian said the OUR is planning to implement power wheeling at the time when JPS applies for a review of electricity rates.
"They are coming back to us for the review of the tariff. When they are coming back, we want to be able to have this completed study and implement this along with the annual tariff adjustment," Mian said.
Attempts to reach the JPS proved futile at press time.