Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
JAMAICANS should be paying around US30 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity by 2016 if the National Partnership Council is able to keep the Government to its target of reducing the cost of energy.
The country currently spends US 42 cents per kilowatt-hour on electricity, but Professor Alvin Wint, who is representing academia on the partnership council, said the target was an ambitious one, while admitting that the credibility of the partnership is dependent on the achievement of the target.
"The partnership is about outcomes, the partnership is not about sitting down and saying 'how are you doing today, and we hope you have a good day tomorrow'. The partnership is about outcomes, and the credibility of the partnership is linked to those outcomes," Wint said.
He was addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum held Friday at the newspaper's Kingston offices.
"There are a set of targets that I don't think you have ever seen in a document before, that are committing us as a country to try and achieve those targets, specified on quantitative terms, along a variety of lines. What we are saying is that we as a partnership, as a country, need to be held accountable to those targets," Wint said.
Reduction of Energy Cost
Under the Social Partnership Agreement signed in July, the Government as well as the private sector, the trade unions and civil society have agreed to work to among other things, ensure the reduction of energy cost, an adherence to the rule of law and an improvement in the economic environment.
In addition to the energy target, the partners have agreed to hardline targets such as the reduction in unemployment to 10 per cent by 2016, and an improvement in Jamaica's ranking on the Doing Business report index to 75 out of 185 countries, up from the current ranking of 90 out of 185 countries.
The partnership has also set the target of reducing murders to 25 per 100,000 by 2016, down from the current 38 per 100,000.
Speaking specifically about energy, Wint said the partnership had a discussion with Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, who assured that with a 360-megawatt plant due to come on stream by 2016, the cost for energy will come down by a third, at least in the first instance.
"That does not mean that in itself is an easy target," Wint admits, while pointing to delays in selecting a preferred bidder for the 360-megawatt plant.
"We have to find a way to ensure that we hold ourselves accountable by getting that 360 megawatt. We have to be saying to the OUR, hurry up," Wint said.
The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) will host a press briefing on Wednesday to provide an update on several current projects
The OUR is managing the process for the construction of the additional 360-megawatt generating capacity, as well as an additional 115-megawatt renewable capacity for the grid.
The construction of the plant for the 360-megawatt plant is expected to begin January 30 next year and commissioned in January 2016.
"There is an urgency now in trying to make sure we make the deadline. It is still possible but we have to move very quickly. The expectation is that we are going to have the bidding process finished by the end of this calendar year so that the groups can begin the process of erection early in the new calendar year," Wint said.
Fraught with Delay
The process of providing additional capacity has been fraught with delay, leading several private-sector interests to express concern.
"We have to keep everybody's feet to the fire to ensure that it happens," Wint said.
The Government, in its technical document presented to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said it was committed to implementing a growth strategy that integrates time-bound fiscal consolidation with structural reforms for reducing impediments to growth and facilitating strategic investments.
The document said the Government is committed to implement energy sector initiatives to achieve fuel-source diversification, facilitate energy conservation and promote liberalisation in delivery to achieve progressive reductions in the cost of energy.