Opposition Spokesman on Energy Phillip Paulwell on Tuesday took the Holness administration to task for what he deemed its failure to act on the recommendations of the Zacca Petrojam Review Committee in respect of the future of the state-owned oil refinery three years after the report was submitted.
Following a presentation in the House by Science, Energy and Technology Minister Daryl Vaz, Paulwell charged that very little had happened for the energy sector since the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) took office in 2016, calling the lack of updates as to whether the refinery would be sold a clear neglect of duty.
“They have [also] not gone out to procure new renewable energy since we did it in 2013, and when I left, the regulations on LNG (liquefied natural gas), the aim was for it to be a competitive regime, but because there are no regulations, nobody else apart from New Fortress Energy is interested in getting involved in a field where there really should be a number of players,” he told The Gleaner.
“We are not seeing them, and so questions are going to be continued to be raised as to why not one of the outstanding things in the draft regulations that we left there in 2016 in relation to the sale and distribution of LNG in Jamaica [has been done]. There needs to be an appropriate regime because the intention was for this to be a competitive element of the energy landscape, and so far, because we don’t have regulations because people are not going to enter a marketplace such as this,” he charged.
Paulwell said there was also confusion as to whether a developer in a special economic zone could establish his own electricity supply and distribute to other members. The JPS has contended that no one else should be allowed that privilege, but the opposition spokesman thinks otherwise.
“Minister, you have already slipped by six months the timeline for the implementation of an integrated resource plan, and it is our hope that when you speak in the Sectoral Debate, you’ll be able to give us a definitive time as to when this will start for new – especially renewable – energy,” he demanded of Vaz.
He lamented the situation, especially in light of continued increases in electricity charges, although among the anticipated benefits from a transformed energy sector were the further transition to the use of new fuels and lowered costs.
After laying out the priority items on the ministry’s legislative agenda for the new parliamentary year, Vaz told the House of Representatives that the Generation Procurement Entity (GPE) has been tasked with the procurement of new electricity-generation capacity based on the approved integrated resource plan – a comprehensive decision-making tool and road map for meeting Jamaica’s 20-year electricity grid obligations, he explained.
He admitted that while the GPE is at an advanced stage of discussion with the Inter-American Development Bank for technical assistance to develop draft rules and protocols for the acquisition of new generation capacity, specifically renewable energy, there have been some delays, but it is anticipated that requests for proposals will be in place by the second quarter of the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Turning to progress on the National Broadband Initiative, Vaz said that the Jamaica Public Service had agreed the use of its utility poles, free of cost, for the running of aerial fibre.
“Tenders have also been issued for contractors to erect these cables in the parishes of St Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, and Westmoreland. While the tender process for some contractors is complete, the responses to others were currently being evaluated.
Vaz said discussions were under way with Flow Jamaica to supply end-to-end access among the St James, St Ann, St Mary, Portland, and St Thomas municipal corporations.