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Samuda calls for more info on progress of 360 MW plant

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 09, 2014    

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OPPOSITION Spokesman on Industry, Investment, Commerce, Mining and Energy Karl Samuda says the country needs more details on the progress of plans for the 360 megawatt energy plant.

Speaking Tuesday at a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) post shadow cabinet meeting press briefing at the party's headquarters, Belmont Road, Samuda described the information coming out of the Government on the process as "insufficient".

He said that the country must recall that the Government still owns some 20 per cent of the shares in the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) and, therefore, must be aware of any financial involvement of the company in the process, and must have an impact on how it goes forward, as well.

"We are calling on the Government and the JPS to bring forward more details on exactly what the proposal is, what we are looking for and what progress has been made with the terms of reference for the monitoring unit," he said.

Last October, the island's three main private sector groups -- the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica -- urged Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to establish a monitoring committee for the 360 Megawatt project, arguing that it would ensure transparency and credibility in the process.

They suggested that it should be similar in structure and methodology to the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), and comprise representatives from the Office of

Utilities Regulation (OUR), private sector and

other stakeholders.

The committee would be mandated with the task of ensuring that the 360-megawatt project "meets its ultimate goal of significantly lower energy costs for both residential and business customers".

The call followed the OUR's cancellation of the preferred bidder status it had granted to United States-based consortium Azurest-Cambridge, after the firm failed to meet its deadline to produce a bid security of one per cent of its proposed US$690-million investment.The OUR then promoted Hong Kong firm Energy World International (EWI) to the position, further fuelling controversy over EWI's entry to the process more than a month after the bids had closed

Samuda said that since the announcement last year that EWI had been selected the preferred bidder, the country has heard very few details on the issue which, he said, is critically linked to

the economy.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell said recently that Jamaica has remained on track to reduce its energy bill by 2016, through several including the establishment of a 360-megawatt power plant.

He said that the energy plant is a critical component of the Government's plans to reduce energy cost from the current rate of US$0.42 cents per kilowatt hour.

"That project is on stream, it's on target; we are making sure that not a day slips and that come January 2016, we will see a significant reduction of more than 30 per cent in the price of electric power," Paulwell said.

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