Government appears to be on the verge of disconnecting the Barbados Light & Power Company’s (BL&P) long-standing monopoly.
The Freundel Stuart administration is establishing a special electricity advisory committee and introducing a new licensing regime “granting” energy suppliers who apply “a non-exclusive right to supply electricity for any purpose within any area”, as determined by the Minister of Energy, acting on expert advice.
But BL&P communications coordinator Jackie Marshall-Clarke said her organization remained in the dark about the contents of the new Electric Light And Power Act, including whether it would end BL&P’s more than 100 year tenure as the island’s only electricity company. A Barbados TODAY examination of the 40-page bill, however, suggests the market is being opened up to others, primarily those producing electricity from renewable energy sources.
With sittings of the House of Assembly due to resume from summer recess next week Tuesday, the act has been added to the Order Paper and is scheduled to be introduced in Parliament by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who has responsibility for energy.
“The minister may, upon payment of such fee as may be prescribed, issue to a person . . . a licence granting a non-exclusive right to supply electricity for any purpose within any area and for such period as the minister considers appropriate in the circumstances,” the legislation stated.
“In determining whether to issue a licence to an applicant, the minister shall (a) consider the recommendation of the committee in relation to the applicant; and (b) take into account, where relevant (i) the current and projected demand for electricity; (ii) the cumulative installed capacity of the generation systems that are a part of, or are connected to, the public grid; the generation systems of licensees; and the renewable energy generation systems that are a part of, or are connected to, the public grid, and of each type of renewable energy generation system, classified according to the source of renewable energy utilised.”
It was also specified that licenses would only be granted under strict circumstances.
“The minister shall not issue a licence pursuant to subsection (1) unless he is satisfied that (a) the facility and location intended to be used pursuant to the licence is safe and adequate for the purpose; (b) the applicant possesses
“(i) the financial capacity to build and maintain the facility; and (ii) the technical capability to operate the facility safely, reliably and efficiently; (c) any planning permission required under the Town And Country Planning Act, Cap. 240 has been obtained,” the act said.
This was in addition to ensuring that issuing a licence “would not result in the cumulative installed capacity of the renewable energy generation systems of all licensees being in excess of such amount as may be prescribed by the Minister by Order, on the advice of the Chief Electrical Engineer”.
All of this will be enabled primarily through advice from the new Electric Light and Power Advisory Committee.
In addition to ex officio representatives, including the Permanent Secretary (Energy), Chief Electrical Engineer, and Chief Town Planner, there would be five ministerial appointees qualified in accounts, engineering or law or any other area as determined by the minister.
Contacted for a response to these developments, Marshall-Clarke said the BL&P had yet to see the recommendations within the bill and in fact would not know if it was suggesting an end to the monopoly or opening to other providers until the House approved it.
Asked about the opening of the doors for other electricity suppliers, she told Barbados TODAY: “We are very open to discussing it and we will, but would not have it until it is raised or laid in Parliament. So I don’t now that we can confirm that is what the act says.
“We have no idea, we have no draft copy or anything as yet. We are waiting like everybody else. I’m willing to come back and talk about it at a later stage, but right now we are on the wait and see with everyone right now. We know that the draft document has gone to Parliament, but we have to wait and see what is in the document before we comment,” she said.
Speaking during a tour last Friday, Minister of Industry, Donville Inniss reportedly said that the legislation outlined above was expected to address issues related to renewable energy, BL&P and the Fair Trading Commission.
It is one of two bills, including the amendments to the Income Tax Act, that will be before the House shortly. (LB)