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Opposition supports new electricity legislation

Published:Tuesday | June 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Holness

Describing it as long overdue, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, has endorsed the Bill titled the Electricity Act, even as Phillip Paulwell, the Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Tuesday, appealed for parliamentary support as he opened debate on a Bill aimed at streamlining the electricity sector.

"We agree with the move to create a regulator," said Holness. "This is consistent with our view that Government must rethink its role in what it regulates, pay for, or provides.

He suggested that a study be done in the fall off in electricity consumption which could have a negative effect on the system.

While he encouraged energy conservation, Holness questioned whether the fallout was as result of consumers avoiding the national grid because of high electricity costs, or a result of the trying economic times.

Paulwell injected a sense of urgency as he expressed hope that the Bill, titled in short, The Electricity Act, will be passed in the House of Representatives at next week's sitting of the House of Representatives.

"This will ensure the underpinning of the electricity sector," said Paulwell, of the Bill which defines the responsibility of the portfolio minister and the Office of Utilities Regulations.

He noted that the Bill, which is the product of many years of involved process, also deals with arrangements involving private power suppliers.

Paulwell noted that the Bill will codify seminal principles of natural justice with the establishment of a tribunal to arbitrate disputes.

Introduced in January to codify the ministerial powers, triggered by a Court of Appeal ruling that the Jamaica Public Service's all-island electricity licence, granted by Paulwell to transmit electricity exclusively, was valid.

That decision reversed a 2012 ruling of the Supreme Court that JPS's 20-year monopoly licence on electricity distribution was invalid.

The original Bill tabled in January was withdrawn last week, and replaced with a new one with several changes.