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The fourth Regulatory Forum of the Caribbean Electric Utility Service Corporation (CARILEC) has attempted to influence Caribbean governments to support the role of independent regulators of utilities in their countries.
Regulation of the energy sector in the region was up for discussion at the CARILEC meeting hosted in St. Lucia for the past two days.
Chairperson of the forum, Jamaica’s Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) that the message of regulating the energy sector across the Caribbean was reinforced during panel discussions with country representatives on Tuesday at the Sandals Grande Hotel.
Paulwell said the general view is that independent regulators would serve as very useful. This however can only become successful once utility companies have been given the general policy mandate, allowing them to operate without political interference and significant security of tenure, he suggested.
“It will encourage the private sector involved in utilities to do the investment and to see reasonable return on that investment,” Paulwell noted.
“I have posited the view that in Jamaica the regulator does engage in tremendous public consultation, before it makes a determination on any matter, and that also lends to the confidence-building that is part of its operations,” he explained.
Representatives of countries attending the CARILEC meeting have generally agreed that they need to have strong independent regulators that are mindful of the general mandate of government.
Meanwhile, some of the participants also raised concerns that governments on the other hand are not in total agreement in having independent regulators. As such, the conference encouraged them to do the opposite.
“There is a tension between government and regulators and how it needs to be managed in such a way that you can achieve, if not consensus, at least something that will benefit the consumers,” Paulwell said. These tensions, he said, are good sometimes because it helps to add more to the debates.
Asked what lessons can be learnt from the Jamaican model, which is being dubbed one of the best regulated energy sectors, Paulwell told SNO that Jamaica has demonstrated it can have effective regulators.
He said even now the country is seeing new investments coming on stream, largely because of the certainty of the environment that exists. He believes that while there will be some disagreements now and again, it is important that independent regulators are set up to better manage the sector.
The dialogue between member states of CARILEC brought out many perspectives which were shared about the state of the region energy sector. Discussions were also centered on how regulation will play its part, in ensuring that the region has a sustainable energy sector, given the huge transformation that is currently undergoing now. Representatives were also urged to take steps in ensuring that not only the energy sector is regulated, but that they start looking at creating renewable sources of energy.
Minister of Energy Dr. James Fletcher commended the initiative taken by CARILEC. He believes that it is a proactive move on the part of CARILEC to bring together member states of the Caribbean, to discuss the future of the energy sector.
Dr. Fletcher noted that the St. Lucian Government will also move towards using the different models of regulation for its electricity sector. The move, he said, is one that was taken about 10 years ago in the telecommunications sector, aimed at creating liberalisation. He hopes the forum will help to create a roadmap for an effective electricity sector in the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of CARILEC Allison Jean, in her opening remarks, said that there must be strategic introspection and retrospection to create meaningful strategies aimed at, not only building resilience, but achieving sustainability of the power sector in the region. CARILEC she said serves as the unified body of utility companies, service providers and institutions that assists members in cushioning the effects of the external environment and will do all it can to ensure that its members are served.
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