Urgency in Energy, Climate Change, and Sustainable Growth

Presentation to the 2024/25 Sectoral Debate
Phillip Paulwell, CD. MP., Leader of Opposition Business
Spokesperson on Energy and Climate Change
Gordon House, Kingston
Tuesday April 30, 2024

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to once again address this Honourable House in this Sectoral Debate. This is my 27th year as a member of this chamber having served two earlier years in the other chamber.

Madam Speaker, as this debate commences today, I must posit that these are not real debates, certainly not like the main budget debate where views and positions are argued between Government and Opposition.
Over the years the Opposition has put forward numerous criticisms of Government’s policies and proffered an equal number of
recommendations which have been largely ignored by the Government. I propose that, as we are now examining the Standing Orders, we use the opportunity to see how we can regulate the sectoral debate to make it far more meaningful and effective.
Madam Speaker, my portfolio has undergone some changes with the
removal of Mining and the addition of Climate Change. However, in
relation to issues relating to Rare Earth Elements I’m sure the new
Spokesman won’t mind if I’m tempted to celebrate with him when we start
to produce commercial quantities of these metals.

Madam Speaker, I don’t have to reiterate to this house the importance of energy to our daily lives whether as consumers or as businesses.
We have been preoccupied Madam Speaker and rightly so with the issue
of the lack of growth in our economy. Indeed, both the Leader of the
Opposition and our Spokesman on Finance spent an inordinate amount
of time in their budget presentations on the failure of the economy to grow
and thus blighting any improvement in the quality of life and the standard
of living of our people. Despite our lower level of unemployment, the vast
majority of people are not seeing any prosperity. In fact, you infuriate
people when you talk so glibly of prosperity because there can be no
feeling of prosperity if the economy is not growing. It has been a bitter
experience for so many of our people.
Madam Speaker, our economy has not grown appreciably over many
years. This lack of growth or slow growth has been linked to the poor
performance of our Energy sector over many decades. Energy is so
crucial to all aspects of our lives and affects in a profound way the high
cost of production and the resulting lack of growth.
After some glowing and significant achievements in Energy between 2012
and 2016 we are now witnessing reversals of that trend.
Madam Speaker, the World Economic Forum’s Global Energy
Architecture Performance Index recorded Jamaica’s dramatic
improvement between 2013-2017 moving 74 places from 166 to 92. That
improvement slowed appreciably to 6 places during the 2017-2021 period.
When I was Minister, we had determined that a price of 15 US cents per
kWh was the price that we should aspire to achieve if our economy were
to become competitive and grow.

Today, this Government has no notion of a benchmark price that it wants
to attain. Madam Speaker, I don’t even believe that this government is
aware of the price of electric energy at this time. If they did then there
would be a greater sense of urgency to correct the situation. When we
left government in 2016 the price per kWh of electricity was about 23 US
cents. Today, that price has escalated to about 40 US cents per kWh. No
wonder growth in the economy continues to elude us and our people
continue to suffer.
And Madam Speaker there are clear reasons why we are not achieving
any success in this important and critical area of energy; the Ministry of
Energy has been completely unstable and unfocused, and nothing much
has even been attempted since 2016. This lack of a sense of urgency has
been typical of this Government in its approach to Energy to the
disadvantage of our society.
Review of Electricity Act 2015
Take for example Madam Speaker, the issue of the Electricity Law which
this House passed in 2015. This law was passed in 2015 to modernize
the legal and regulatory framework for electricity that was over 100 years
old. It was clear to me and the Parliament though, that the law was going
to be transitional and would need a comprehensive review after 5 years
to observe its implementation and to anticipate the upcoming expiration of
the tenure of the existing Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo)
license. This review should have been done in 2020. The review only
started after my insistence, but the process has been painfully slow. And
even though the work of the Joint Select Committee has been completed,
we are yet to see the tabling of the Report in Parliament.

We are not very impressed with the outcome of the work of the Joint Select
Committee. I believe we missed an opportunity to complete the work that
was started in 2015 and instead, the Joint Select Committee has only
tinkered in this review, carefully ensuring that the status quo is preserved.
The new law that will emanate from the process of review will itself have
to be reviewed when the JPSCo license comes to an end in 2027. We
really should have used this review to incorporate from now, even if certain
provisions have to be effective over time (like the Telecoms Act of 2000)
far-reaching provisions that would be incorporated when the JPSCo
license expires. The lack of urgency that we have seen with the process
to review the legislation is typical of the approach of this Government to
this critical area of Energy.
End Of JPSCo License
Madam Speaker, we are very concerned that as the year 2027
approaches with the termination of the JPS license, no negotiation has
commenced. I fear that come 2027, at the pace of which this Government
operates, there will be no new arrangements in place as we hobble along.
Madam Speaker, if I were Minister, I would have in place today a
negotiating team, already engaging JPSCo and seeking to use this
emerging reality as leverage to secure some of the changes that should
occur from now.
Already, there are two areas that I would seek to clarify with JPSCo and
commence implementation immediately:

  1. To have a regime for charging ports/stations for electric vehicles that
    is fully competitive and to provide incentives for these to be
    established using renewable sources of energy.
  2. To enable enterprises that are established within Special Economic
    Zones to generate and distribute electricity within the zone. This will
    lead to rapid growth in this area, which is hampered by the high cost
    of electricity. And, of course, we will encourage that renewables be
    the source of energy for these zones.
    Madam Speaker, what would I be saying to JPSCO if I were the
    Minister today: Don’t fear competition; competition will always lead to
    the growth in a given market, so embrace it. Electricity transmission
    and distribution is no longer regarded as a pure monopoly. Don’t be
    caught flat footed as was the case in 2001 when another monopolist
    had to be forcibly awakened from its slumber. If adjustments aren’t
    made now then you will be left behind.
    Liquefied Natural Gas
    Madam Speaker, the introduction of Liquefied Natural Gas was a major
    achievement in our energy diversification objective. Just about 60 per
    cent of electricity is now generated using natural gas. We have not seen,
    however, the achievement of lower prices through the use of LNG.
    I will say for the eighth consecutive year that it was never intended by the
    PNP administration to introduce LNG with a sole provider. Our intention
    was to promulgate regulations to enable transparent and clear rules that
    would encourage competition in the provision of this fuel to Jamaica.
    These regulations were drafted in 2015. Where are they nine years later??
    Again, I call for these regulations to be tabled forthwith and for them to

    apply not only to the generation of electricity but also to their use in
    transportation and other areas. This is a clear path towards the lowering
    of energy costs in Jamaica.
    We want to ask again if all customers of the current LNG provider
    contribute to the cost of the infrastructure. We do know that all of JPSCo
    customers have to absorb in their bills the cost of the establishment of the
    LNG facilities. It is only fair and reasonable that other off takers do so as
    well. This could lead to a lowering of the price of electricity.
    Renewable Energy
    Madam Speaker Jamaica became the leading country in the Englishspeaking Caribbean in relation to renewable energy by 2016. We are no
    longer so.
    When I became Minister of Energy, the only body in Jamaica that could
    introduce large scale renewable projects was the Petroleum Corporation
    of Jamaica. That monopoly was immediately terminated by me. As a
    result, we undertook the first large scale procurement of renewable
    energy. That effort saw more than US $300 million in new investments in
    wind, solar and hydro power bringing down the price of electricity to the
    grid. Even though we have seen a slight shift in the slumber of this
    Government in this area no new renewable projects have been
    introduced. Please remember in addition to the large-scale projects, we
    also introduced over 700 net billing licenses so that generators using
    renewable energy sources can attach to the grid. Our efforts were
    supported by removal of tariff barriers on solar panels and the provision
    of funds through the Development Bank of Jamaia (DBJ) and the National

    Housing Trust (NHT) to consumers and businesses to retrofit their energy
    Recently the Government stirred and caused a procurement process to
    commence for 100MW of capacity. My information is that all the bids came
    in at below US 10 cents per kWh. Can you imagine if the Government had
    done this earlier where the price of electricity could have been today? Why
    didn’t the Government go for over 200MW as they had pledged to do?
    And what about the early announcements by the Government of the
    establishment of a committee looking at waste to energy projects?
    Nothing but silence on that issue.
    I wish to remind this House that we were able to earn significant revenues
    when we established the Wigton Wind Farm from trade in carbon credits.
    This should be another incentive for the Government to enlarge the
    country’s renewable footprint.
    Electricity Theft
    Madam Speaker, the matter of the theft of electricity has been
    longstanding. It affects all of us, especially consumers who must
    contribute hard earned cash to defray its impact. It is estimated that 17
    per cent of our bills are due to JPSCO recouping losses due to the over
    200,000 households that steal electricity. I wish the Government would
    appreciate the seriousness of this issue in terms of the burden it places
    on consumers and the lack of growth in the economy.
    I have been advancing a specific set of proposals for my last three
    Sectoral Debate presentations without any luck in getting the Government
    to address them. I even placed the proposals in a Private Member’s

    motion three years ago, trying to provoke a response from the
    Government. NOTHING!!
    The solution lies in my plan to use solar technology to provide low-cost
    energy to poor communities.
    Madam Speaker, improvements in solar technology continue to soar.
    Solar panels, inverters and batteries are becoming far more efficient, with
    greater capacity and more easily deployed using less roof space. The
    price is falling and will continue in the foreseeable future; the same is
    happening to inverter technology. But the most exciting developments are
    occurring in relation to the energy storage capacity using lithium-ion
    batteries. As the problem in relation to storage is solved, renewables, and
    in particular solar power becomes less intermittent and more reliable as
    firm electricity capacity.
    Madam Speaker, the Government should look at my proposals to deploy
    between 3KW and 5KW solar systems along with batteries in these
    communities where the theft of electricity has overwhelmed the capacity
    of the JPSCo and the Police to contain.
    It would be a winning solution for everyone as the poor will have access
    to this necessity, the consumers will get a 17 per cent price break and
    carbon credits can be earned from this increased use of renewable
    energy…” TIME COME”
    Madam Speaker, Petrojam continues to limp along under this
    Government. There is no clear vision as to the future role of this
    organization that has served this country for over 30 years.

    We believe the issue of Petrojam requires urgent attention. We should
    note the past justifications for maintaining the refinery:
  3. It has been a significant manufacturer adding value and creating
    high-quality jobs in the economy.
  4. It has been an earner of foreign exchange from its exports and
    saves the country a huge amount of foreign exchange from its
    import substitution activities.
  5. The country has never been out of fuel over these decades of its
  6. There is a shortage of refinery capacity in our region.
    Madam Speaker, about 5 years ago the Government established a
    committee, chaired by Mr. Christopher Zacca, to consider and make
    recommendations for the future of Petrojam. A report was tabled but in
    keeping with this Government’s high level of inaction that report, 5 years
    later, is still awaiting a cabinet decision. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!
    I will again call for the Zacca Report to be referred to the Energy Council
    for their views and then for the Economy and Production Committee of
    Parliament to consider the recommendations. Jamaica’s energy security
    is far too important for Petrojam to be treated in this feeble manner. It is a
    dishonor to and embarrassment of the hard-working and professional staff
    of this institution to be treated in this way.
    Madam Speaker, as I close on the vital area of Energy, I will repeat some
    additional policy positions of a future PNP that the Leader of the
    Opposition highlighted in his budget presentation:
  7. We will roll out a National Energy Efficiency Programme. This will
    incorporate natural lighting and passive cooling dimensions. This

    will be financed by local, regional, and international development
    banks and private risk capital. The objective is to achieve an
    average 50% reduction in residential energy consumption and
    costs, with a two-year payback.
  8. We will prioritize achieving our renewable energy target of at least
    30% by 2030.
  9. We will review the tax system affecting the energy sector to ensure
    that it incentivizes the investments in efficiency and cost-reducing
    replacement and expansion of the sector, in keeping with our policy
    to prioritize the reduction of Jamaica’s carbon footprint.
    Climate Change
    Madam Speaker, thanks to the visionary leadership of our former Prime
    Minister, the Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller, who created the first
    Ministry of Climate Change in this hemisphere, Jamaica is well placed, in
    a future PNP Administration to restart and give greater energy to more
    coordinated action to the myriads of climate change mitigation and
    adaptation initiatives that need urgent attention.
    The truth is Madam Speaker, the issue of climate change continues to be
    one that is dominated by an international perspective and efforts usually
    ushered in by senior political leadership. Jamaica has not been seen to
    continue its international leadership in this regard, certainly not after those
    heady days when “Sista P” and Bobby Pickersgill led Jamaica’s global
    articulation. We have lost much of our appeal and influence. Others in our
    region have overtaken us.
    Our vision statement of 2015 is as relevant now as it was then: ‘Jamaica
    achieves its goals of growth and prosperity for its people while meeting

    the challenges of climate change as a country with enhanced resilience
    and capacity to adapt to the impacts and to mitigate the causes in a
    coordinated, effective and sustainable manner.’
    It was clear to the world from before the turn of this century that climate
    change was taking place at an accelerated rate due to human activities,
    especially those related to the use of fossil fuels and land clearing,
    exacerbated by population growth. The level of carbon dioxide in the
    atmosphere continues to rise and, despite the tremendous recent efforts
    to get the entire international community to respond positively, our world
    remains in danger of cataclysmic impacts due to continuing climate
    change realities.
    We know that Jamaica, like so many small island developing states, is
    particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change not only in terms of
    our natural resources, but also our social well-being and our economic
    development, as sectors such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries, forestry,
    and water are very climate sensitive.
    Madam Speaker, we have witnessed the damaging consequences of
    climate change in Jamaica and as soon as we return to office, we will have
    to amalgamate all the various projects in a much more coordinated and
    focused way within the National Budget. We have to ensure that the
    Division in the Ministry is properly structured, staffed and resourced and
    that we embark on a sustained public education programme aimed at all
    levels of the population and sectors of the economy.
    We must move from a tagline to a mindset so that our people will fully
    understand that we are facing real danger that will have far reaching
    consequences on things we take for granted.

    Madam Speaker, I am unimpressed with the outcomes, so far, of the
    climate projects in the Ministry. I will touch on a few of them:
  10. Increased emissions sequestration from the forestry sector. The first
    disbursement of funds under the mangroves segment has been
  11. Reduce system losses in electricity transmission and distribution.
    No success here.
  12. A switch from fuel oil to LNG as the energy used for processing heat
    generation at Alpart refinery. The Alpart plant is closed.
  13. Improve alumina refining energy efficiency to 90% by 2030. Nothing
    has been achieved here.
  14. By 2030, Jamaica will have 291 MW new solar PV capacity, 121 MW
    onshore wind capacity, 36 MW hydro capacity, 20 MW biomass and
    18 MW waste to energy. This objective cannot be achieved.
  15. Electricity savings of 19,800 MWh/year by 2030. Implementation is
    yet to commence.
  16. Reduce final electricity intensity in the water services sector by 10
    per cent by 2030. No updates on this project.
  17. Reduced congestion in KMA traffic corridors, increasing average
    traffic speed from 22km/hour to 28km/hour so energy consumption
    falls by 40 per cent by 2023. No updates.
  18. By 2023, electricity consumption in retrofitted facilities to fall by over
    15 GWh annually. This activity is delayed due to procurement
    Madam Speaker, I could delve a lot more into the details of all the projects
    including the various local and international sources of funding but I’m
    aware of a very extensive investigation being pursued by the auditor
    general’s department. I await the conclusion of that investigation at which

    time I will respond. I am hoping that there will be no delay in the tabling of
    that report when it is sent to this Parliament.
    Comments as Leader of Opposition Business in Parliament
    Madam Speaker, as Leader of Opposition Business I welcome the
    opportunity to welcome the new Clerk of the House and pledge my side
    full and respectful support in her new and important assignment; I also
    welcome the opportunity to be a part of the Committee to undertake a
    comprehensive review of the Standing Orders Committee.
    I do hope that the exercise will be vigorously pursued and will be
    conducted in the highest spirit of compromise and reasonableness. I think
    as Chairman you have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that the
    experience and understanding of the committee’s members be fully
    utilized without too much regard for which side of the aisle they come.
    Now is not a time for the wielding of the power of the majority but rather
    to allow good governance and nation building to take centre stage.
    Madam Speaker, your role as Speaker has undergone some scrutiny in
    recent times, and rightly so. As speaker you are the impartial,
    disinterested, fair, even-handed and reasonable arbiter of the proceedings
    in this arena. That is a most crucial role and function.
    It is significant to note Madam Speaker that it is only in one respect that
    you are allowed to really take an active part in proceedings on the floor.
    Though no speaker has exercised the option you are only able to
    participate in a single presentation in The Constituency Debate.

    Otherwise, the Speaker’s role is to ensure the orderly conduct of the
    House. You have asked that the Standing Orders be reviewed to provide
    you with guidance as to the tabling of reports from the Auditor General
    and the Integrity Commission. With respect Madam Speaker, the rules
    that currently exist are quite fine and must not be adjusted in any way. But
    we do need new rules to restore the chairmanship of the several oversight
    committees to the Opposition.
    And Madam Speaker we must better define the relationship between
    yourself and the administrative staff of Parliament. Needless to say, I will
    again call upon you to withdraw that egregious letter that was sent to the
    former Clerk along with an appropriate apology. This matter will dog you
    for the rest of your term as Speaker if you don’t do the right thing to restore
    equilibrium and working relationships within this honourable House.
    Madam Speaker, in my 2017 presentation I recommended that in addition
    to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, both the Leaders of
    Government and Opposition Business should also have their statutory
    filings with the Integrity Commission subject to public scrutiny.
    I decided to proceed before any acceptance of that proposal and
    established a social media site and posted my entire filings from 1995 to
  19. This was lauded by some as being exemplary. I intend to repeat
    that disclosure.
    Madam Speaker I will now use this opportunity to acknowledge and thank
    the following individuals for their support:
    1 Leader of Opposition

    2 My two Councilors
    Constituency Executive Body
    Deputy and Youth Spokespersons
    Task Force
    Personal staff
    In concluding my Presentation to this Honourable House I recommit the
    following desirable and actionable items:
  • Return the country to a path to attain 15 US cents per kWh for
    electricity ; embrace the provision of Solar systems to those in our
    society who steal on the paying consumers. Table the regulations
    for the importation, distribution and use of LNG in Jamaica and start
    the negotiations with the JPSco in respect of their license. Lets use
    Energy to kickstart the road to greater economic growth.
  • Update the nation on Cabinet decision or lack thereof on the
    Zacca/ Petrojam report, to ignore such an important cog in the
    nation’s energy security is a neglect of duty and an irresponsible
  • Put some urgency and priority on the pressing matter of Climate
    Change; Restore Jamaica to its leading position and role within the
    region in respect of Climate Change issues, to do anything less will

    lead to our own peril and to leave future generations to suffer
    because of our avoidable failings.
  • Serving in this Honourable House is both a privilege and a
    significant responsibility; the nation watches and sees what we do
    daily. We can either be a positive beacon of good example or a
    negative role model to our citizens. Let’s put aside our partisan
    bickering and work in the Standing Order Review Committee to
    significantly improve how we conduct the business of the nation. To
    do anything less we would have failed the people who sent us here
    and the generations to follow us.
  • Despite our warts , we are still a great nation. And our best days are
    still ahead!!!!
    May God continue to bless Jamaica, land we love!!
    I thank you!!!!