Citing high energy bills as a result of the colossal cost of importing electricity, the Jamaica Energy Council assembled on April 20 to discuss the implementation of an energy policy, reported the Jamaica Information Service. The focus of the council, comprised of bi-partisan and stakeholder members and chaired by the minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell, alongside opposition energy spokesman, Gregory Mair, set the agenda with renewable and indigenous energy source development for energy security, energy conservation and efficiency as well as opportunities to achieve and sustain price competitiveness as the priority.

Other focus points of the meeting involved the haulage, storage and distribution of conventional energy resources, including but not limited to oil and coal/petroleum coke; oil and gas exploration; petroleum refinery. Furthermore, energy access (urban and rural electrification) and affordable prices; implementing a governance framework for the energy sector, including fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to stimulate investments into the sector towards achieving the 2003 – 2030 Energy Policy goals.

Minister Paulwell said, “The total annual spending on imported oil since 2003 has increased drastically from just over US$800 million to US$2.7 billion in 2008.” The minister also cited the prediction of leading economists stating that crude oil prices are likely to exceed US$140.00 per barrel before the end of the calendar year 2012. He attributed the country’s low economic growth to the increasing electricity cost which averages US$0.42 per kWh.

“It is in this regard that the government and opposition, private and public sectors, non-government and community-based organisations and civil society must work together to address the problem. The establishment of the Jamaica Energy Council is one such response and I implore all the members to seize the moment and make Jamaica the common interest,” the Minister added. “Jamaica is at the crossroads and the decisions we make and the actions we take will undoubtedly determine what we bequeath to subsequent generations.”

Paulwell continued, “The electricity infrastructure is old and inefficient and system losses remain unacceptably high. Many customers of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) are forced to make choices between paying their electricity bills and buying food, accessing educational and health services, as well as paying rent and mortgages.

“There are contraction of services, closures and we have seen several (businesses) relocate to other more competitive markets within the Caribbean. The high price of electricity drives many to seek illegal means to access the commodity and unfortunately putting themselves, their families and the unsuspecting public at risk, due to the unsafe practise of illegal connections,” the minister noted.

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