We’re do­ing some things

Jamaica Gleaner - - SOCIAL SOMETHING EXTRA -

The fol­low­ing are ex­cerpts from a speech de­liv­ered by Joseph M. Mat­alon, chair­man of the Of­fice of Util­i­ties Reg­u­la­tion, last week at the 14th an­nual con­fer­ence of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Caribbean Util­ity Reg­u­la­tors in Mon­tego Bay, St James.

AS I am sure you will hear from the rel­e­vant sec­tor min­is­ters’ pre­sen­ta­tions, the wa­ter and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tors are also hav­ing their mo­ments in the sun.

It is also fit­ting that the con­fer­ence is be­ing held at a time when the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund, just three weeks ago (Oc­to­ber 8), recog­nised Ja­maica as pos­sess­ing the best in­fras­truc­ture strat­egy in the Caribbean. With all of this, it would not be im­mod­est to say we are do­ing some things right.

That said, how­ever, we ac­cept that like the lit­tle one in Robert Louis Steven­son’s poem, “we still have many more miles to go” – and I end it there, be­cause sleep­ing is not at all in our con­tem­pla­tion.

We see in the road ahead abound­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. No­tably, the ad­vent of new tech­nolo­gies such as smart me­tres opens up a plethora of op­tions for en­hanced choices and con­trolled costs. At one point it was true to say that com­pared with the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fras­truc­ture, the elec­tric­ity grid had re­mained rel­a­tively un­changed for more than a cen­tury. That, how­ever, is no longer the case. The grid now shares and in­deed con­verges the ac­tion with its ICT coun­ter­part. All of this has spawned new chal­lenges, ev­i­dent in rapidly evolv­ing con­sumer ex­pec­ta­tion and in­de­pen­dence, new busi­ness mod­els and an in­creas­ing re­quire­ment for defter reg­u­la­tory in­ter­ven­tions.

CHANG­ING IN­DUS­TRY

Re­search has shown that falling costs and in­creas­ing in­ter­est in tech­nolo­gies for im­proved ef­fi­ciency, trig­gered by so­lar power and net me­ter­ing, are fac­tors that are lead­ing to changes in the elec­tric util­ity in­dus­try, com­pa­ra­ble to those ex­pe­ri­enced by the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try start­ing in the late-1970s. At the same time, in­no­va­tive en­ergy ser­vice sup­pli­ers have ap­peared, dis­rupt­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween tra­di­tional util­i­ties, reg­u­la­tors and cus­tomers.

As cus­tomers de­part from the grid and pro­vide their own power needs, the de­part­ing cus­tomers’ share of util­ity costs fall on fewer cus­tomers, rais­ing their rates, so more of them de­part. Such are some of the chal­lenges that reg­u­la­tors face around the re­gion and which we as reg­u­la­tors must strive to ad­dress in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

MAN­AG­ING OBLI­GA­TIONS

But there are also many op­por­tu­ni­ties. Glob­ally, many util­i­ties per­ceive that they are car­ry­ing a re­lent­lessly in­creas­ing reg­u­la­tory bur­den. In es­tab­lished mar­kets, these reg­u­la­tions are driven by mar­ket re­forms and a move to­wards com­pe­ti­tion in all as­pects of util­ity op­er­a­tions. In re­gions ex­pe­ri­enc­ing rapid in­fras­truc­ture growth, reg­u­la­tion typ­i­cally in­creases as whole­sale and re­tail mar­kets be­come more com­plex. In such cir­cum­stances, the ex­perts rec­om­mend that util­i­ties bet­ter man­age their reg­u­la­tory obli­ga­tions.

Keep­ing abreast of fre­quent changes in reg­u­la­tion is key, as is the abil­ity to ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate with all stake­hold­ers about ex­actly how these changes will af­fect prices.

De­spite ef­forts by many util­ity op­er­a­tors to en­hance cus­tomer pro­cesses such as me­ter­ing, billing and com­plaint

FILE

Joseph M. Mat­alon Con­sumers have al­ready ben­e­fited sub­stan­tially from com­pe­ti­tion in terms of lower prices for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices, an im­proved bas­ket of prices, wider choice, rapid of­fer of a num­ber of new tech­nolo­gies, es­pe­cially broad­band ser­vices, and higher qual­ity of ser­vices. KEY FAC­TOR TO SUC­CESS

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