Manufacturers are beseeching the Government to intervene and arrest the exorbitant electricity bills that they say are crippling their businesses, as within a very short period the few that are still operational will have to close their doors.
"Every month businesses have to make a decision whether to pay JPSCo or pay the bank or the workers or whatever other bills are outstanding, and if they don't pay JPS, they get cut off. And they wait every month until the problems accumulate and the bombs go off and ultimately that business closes, because they simply cannot afford the bill. And even worst, after the death of the business, the bills are still coming," said Rosalee Hamilton president of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Alliance. She was speaking at a Gleaner's Editor's Forum on Thursday.
Killing small-business sector
Outlining several concerns, including excessive kilovolt-amperes charges, which they are still billed for even after the supply has been disconnected, Hamilton said no business can survive in the current environment and unless something was done, it would systematically kill the small-business sector.
Plans are under way to construct two new power plants in the island, which is hoped to reduce the country's dependency on oil and reduce the cost of electricity.
Conduit Capital Partners, a private-equity investment firm based in New York, United States, plans to build a $127-million power plant in Kingston by 2012.
Managed by Conduit's Jamaica Energy Partners on behalf of West Kingston Power Partners, the plant is expected to produce 66 megawatts of power and run on both gas oil and natural gas.
On a larger scale, new stakeholders in JPS, Korea East-West Power Company, has also put in a bid to construct a new 360-megawatt hydroelectric power plant in Maggotty, St Elizabeth, by 2014. Jamaica currently has four main power stations, eight hydroelectric plants and one wind farm.
Brian Pengelley, Jamaica Manufacturing Association president, added his voice, noting that with the stranglehold businesses were under, the minister had to tell them what was the proposal for the short term.
"In this country, we talk and talk with not much action. The time for talking has passed, it's now time for action," said Pengelley.
Mullings said he shared their concerns and suggested that the manufacturers look at self-generation however, everyone agreed that that was not a feasible option. Citing larger companies that tried that route and even brought in experts, they found self-generation to be more costly.
The minister then suggested that they examine if it was the fuel part of their bill that was killing them, and if that was the case then there was no easy fix. However, he said in the interim, while the Government and stakeholders work at the plans they want to implement under the National Energy Conservation and Efficiency Policy 2010-2030, some immediate measures need to be employed.