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New bill codifies ministerial powers to grant electricity licences

Published:Friday | February 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM

A new bill tabled in Parliament in the final week of January, titled 'The Electricity Act 2015', is intended to clarify ministerial powers over the granting of exclusive or non-exclusive licences for the distribution of power supplies.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell, told the Financial Gleaner that the new legislation "will leave without doubt the minister's ability to offer an exclusive licence" and that "the exclusivity that the minister gives or grants will be enshrined in law".

Under Section 6 of the bill, licences granted for generation of electricity will be non-exclusive, but licences for distribution of electricity may either be exclusive or non-exclusive.

The bill was introduced to codify ministerial powers following on the decision by judges of the Court of Appeal which ruled in January that the Jamaica Public Service's all-island electric licence granted by the energy minister to transmit electricity exclusively was valid. The new bill also seeks to repeal the Electric Lighting Act and the Electricity Development Act.

The court's decision reversed a 2012 ruling of Supreme Court judge, Justice Bryan Sykes, that JPS' 20-year monopoly licence on electricity distribution was invalid. In his ruling, Justice Sykes held that the energy minister did not have the power to grant a licence on terms that prevent other applicants from having their applications considered.