Unintentionally, perhaps, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) was less than generous with the facts, or the interpretation thereof.
But through its wool and waffle we discern an effort to finally get on with the job of delivering new, cheaper electricity-generating capacity to the country and to give the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) and its parents a fair shot at the effort.
This newspaper supports the move because Jamaica has dilly-dallied for too long on the energy question. We, however, have two provisos: consumers must see a real reduction in energy prices; and any decision taken now must not mean that we are so locked into a fuel as to rule out the use of others in future power plants.
The matter that this about-turn by the OUR is aimed at rescuing is the plan to build a gas-fired, 360-megawatt power plant for which the OUR invited requests for proposal (RFP) more than two years ago.
As originally conceived, the construction of the power plant was a separate project to any plan for the supply, storage and regasification of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be used in the facility.
On the power plant, the JPS and its major owners, using a vehicle called South Jamaica Power Company, were the sole bidders.
CONTAMINATED BIDDING PROCESS
With regard to the sourcing, storage and regasification of the LNG, the preferred bidders were disqualified because the bidding process was contaminated. The Government then tried its hand at pulling this side of the scheme together, but couldn't source LNG at a cost to deliver the promised 30 per cent, or more, reduction in the price of electricity.
So, last year the energy minister, Phillip Paulwell, requested that JPS take on the entire scheme. That suggests to us a substantial change in the scope of the project.
Like the Government, JPS wasn't having joy attempting to source LNG at a price to deliver the electricity rate cut promised by Mr Paulwell and what would be desirous to jump-start the economy. In the meantime, apparently as it pursued the effort, JPS put on the table a proposal for a plant that burnt a fuel other than natural gas, but cheaper than oil.
In the midst of all this, the OUR rescinded JPS's preferred-bidder status and signalled its intention to return to the market. The head of the OUR has since left.
The OUR now says that it will review JPS's 'alternative' ideas, as well as other expressions of interest it has received since it formally ended the initial request for proposal with the withdrawal of JPS's preferred-bidder status.
All parties will now have until March 15 to make concrete proposals which, in the absence of a new RFP regime, will be treated as unsolicited proposals. The OUR signalled its preference for negotiating with any promoter on a sole-sourcing basis, whatever emerges as the idea to deliver electricity the cheapest.
In this context, the JPS, having done much of the background work, would seem to have a handicap on others who may want to bid. We assume that propane would be somewhere in the fuel mix to be considered.
Having wasted a decade on his matter, it's time to get on with it rather than waiting for the most ideal circumstance to act.
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