Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) Kelly Tomblin has expressed cautious optimism that a successful liquefied natural gas (LNG) arrangement will be eked out in talks between the Government and her company, although the attempt to ink a deal remains on slippery slope.
It is clear that Tomblin is aware that the glare is on the JPS following news that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell had met with her team last week.
"We met with the minister last Thursday to outline the parameters and the structure and we are continuing to have meetings with potential LNG providers. We should have more firm information in a couple of weeks," said Tomblin.
However, there are indications that nothing has been finalised and the talks have not even been formalised.
"We are continuing to have meetings," she revealed, as she spoke to journalists following a Rotary Club luncheon in New Kingston last week.
Last month, the Government scrapped the LNG project as it was being designed and passed it over to the JPS.
LNG is a key component of the Government's plan to reduce the cost of electricity to Jamaicans.
But with the Portia Simpson Miller administration unable to build the infrastructure and source the gas at a price that would result in a significantly lower price, the decision was made to hand over the project to the JPS.
FINDING BEST STRUCTURE
According to Tomblin, Paulwell had approached the JPS some time ago and requested that the company work with him to ensure that LNG become a part of the country's energy mix.
"We are in the process of doing that," Tomblin told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I think for us, right now, we are trying to determine the best structure and entity to bring LNG at the cheapest price."
Asked how confident she was that a deal can be brokered, Tomblin said: "I am optimistic. Obviously, the price point is a difficult one. We all knew that we needed to get to $12 and we are pushing providers to get there. I am optimistic, but cautiously so. There are some details to be worked out, but we are having very productive conversations."
Tomblin said since the JPS was approached there have been frequent meetings with different entities of government.
"We have further assignments to communicate with LNG providers and are just waiting on formal notification at this time."
Responding to concerns that JPS's monopoly could be strengthened with a LNG infrastructure within its ambit, Tomblin stressed that the overarching goal was to get LNG to Jamaica.
"When the term 'JPS' is used, it's used pretty broadly, so LNG could come from one of our subsidiaries, the power plants itself but we are really working out these details."
She stressed that instead of monopoly, the focus was on a typical model.
"If you look around the world when there is a utility, it has a fuel-procurement entity attached, I don't think it was a preference for JPS to procure the fuel. It was who is the best entity that is best suited to bring it in most cheaply.
"I don't think we have determined the exact entity that would be best suited to carry out this function. That's what we are determining with the Government over the next couple of weeks," she said.