Hol­ness: ‘Get it right’ on en­ergy

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

AS­SERT­ING THAT “we must get it right”, Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness has urged util­ity reg­u­la­tors to take se­ri­ously their role in help­ing the Caribbean ease its de­pen­dence on oil and em­brace tech­nolo­gies and re­new­ables key to en­ergy di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion.

The reg­u­la­tors’ role, he said, is linked to the cre­ation of part­ner­ships with in­vestors who want re­turns, con­sumers and gov­ern­ments push­ing for the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of their coun­tries.

Hol­ness was ad­dress­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony for the 14 Or­gan­i­sa­tion Of Caribbean Util­ity Reg­u­la­tors (OOCUR) con­fer­ence at the Se­crets Re­sorts & Spa in Mon­tego Bay, St James.

A va­ri­ety of is­sues are set for dis­cus­sion over three days by the more than 160 re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts.

How­ever, Hol­ness, not­ing the im­por­tance of en­ergy to the re­gion’s de­vel­op­ment and the cur­rent high lev­els of de­pen­dence on oil, made it clear that the is­sue should be at the top of the agenda.

“En­ergy is clearly the mis­sion-crit­i­cal fron­tier,” he said, point­ing to the role of Ja­maica’s Of­fice of Util­i­ties Reg­u­la­tion (OUR) in help­ing Ja­maica in­tro­duce liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas (LNG) as part of the en­ergy mix.

“The OUR ap­proved the fund­ing for the con­ver­sion of the Ja­maica Pub­lic Ser­vice Bogue plant to en­able the move from heavy de­pen­dence on oil to di­ver­si­fy­ing to LNG. I ap­plaud the OUR in this re­gard for be­ing a strong reg­u­la­tor and help­ing to make this move a re­al­ity – to take Ja­maica on this new plat­form. This is a great ex­am­ple of col­lab­o­ra­tion among Gov­ern­ment, reg­u­la­tor, and util­ity,” Hol­ness added.

A ship­ment of LNG sup­plies ar­rived in Ja­maica last week Satur­day, and in two weeks, is ex­pected to be in full use.

TAKE ROLE SE­RI­OUSLY

The prime min­is­ter em­pha­sised that reg­u­la­tors have to take se­ri­ously their role in help­ing the Caribbean Com­mu­nity im­ple­ment the Caribbean en­ergy pol­icy that was ap­proved in 2013.

That pol­icy pro­motes a shift in sus­tain­able en­ergy through in­creased use

of re­new­able en­ergy sources and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, among other things.

“OOCUR, you have your work cut out

for you as not only is Ja­maica fo­cused on di­ver­si­fy­ing its en­ergy mix, so, too, is CARICOM, and we must get it right in the re­gion. Ac­cess to af­ford­able en­ergy is a nec­es­sary re­quire­ment for ad­dress­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion,” Hol­ness said.

He also ar­gued that while there is need for part­ner­ship with all stake­hold­ers in the pro­vi­sion of util­i­ties, the providers must in­sist on self-reg­u­la­tion to en­sure that stan­dards are up­held and ser­vice de­liv­ery is at a high qual­ity.

Ear­lier, Al­bert Gor­don, chair­man of OOCUR, said the con­fer­ence was hap­pen­ing at a time when reg­u­la­tion was be­com­ing more im­por­tant for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

The con­fer­ence sched­ule has placed heavy em­pha­sis on re­new­able en­ergy and in­vest­ment.

Ja­maica and many other small-is­land states of the Caribbean are heavy im­porters of oil, which in­creases their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to ex­ter­nal shocks such as sharp oil price rises. Ex­cept for Trinidad and Tobago, the only net ex­porter of oil and nat­u­ral gas, all other Caribbean coun­tries are net oil im­porters.

“For im­porters other than Suri­name, around 87 per cent of pri­mary en­ergy con­sumed is in the form of im­ported pe­tro­leum prod­ucts. Im­ports are mostly diesel fuel for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion, gaso­lene for trans­porta­tion, and liq­ue­fied pe­tro­leum gas used as cook­ing gas in house­holds,” ex­perts noted in a pa­per ti­tled ‘Caribbean En­ergy: Macro-Re­lated Chal­lenges’ re­leased in March by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

This, they said, has led to con­sis­tently high elec­tric­ity rates, which af­fects the com­pet­i­tive­ness and de­vel­op­ment of CARICOM na­tions.

Ac­cess to af­ford­able en­ergy is a nec­es­sary re­quire­ment for ad­dress­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion.

PHOTO BY PAUL CLARKE

Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness ad­dresses the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Caribbean Util­ity Reg­u­la­tors Con­fer­ence in Mon­tego Bay, St James, yes­ter­day.

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