St Lucia to establish independent utilities regulator
The government of Saint Lucia, through its ministry of sustainable development, energy, science and technology, is laying a foundation to facilitate multi-million dollar investments in the renewable energy sector.
The government has set an ambitious goal to position Saint Lucia to generate 35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal energy by the year 2020. For this to happen, however, new investors must be assured of regulatory certainty in the energy sector.
It is for this reason the government is moving to set up an independent national utilities regulator and on Wednesday brought together public and private sector stakeholders to discuss the draft legislation.
Speaking at the opening of the consultation, the minister for sustainable development, energy, science and technology, Sen. Dr James Fletcher, indicated that, if Saint Lucia has to realise real investment in the energy and water sectors, there must be a degree of transparency and fairness in the regulatory environment, as will be facilitated by the proposed National Utilities Regulatory Commission.
“Given that we already have a utility regulator for the water sector, we think it makes sense to combine the two utility regulators for water and electricity into one national utility regulator and this utility regulatory commission is supposed to provide transparent and independent regulation of a utility sector, which we hope in the very near future will not just be dominated by the Saint Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) but by other power producers.
“In fact, just this week, I have met with investors interested in wind energy development, waste to energy development and even development partners from as far away as New Zealand and Japan who want to assist us with our geothermal development portfolio, so there is a lot of interest in Saint Lucia`s power sector and the only way we can ensure that this interest translates into an orderly and well thought-out development of the energy sector is to have this independent regulator in place,” Fletcher said.
Once established, the National Utilities Regulatory Commission will be responsible for setting tariffs and ensuring quality service by utility companies.
Fletcher also stated that government’s position is unwavering on the principle that the independent regulatory body must protect the best interests of consumers.
“I am happy that we have the president of the National Consumer Association here at this very important consultation, because this will now replace the National Water and Sewage Commission and it will set up a new regulator for the electricity sector; it is supposed to protect the consumers and we must ensure that what we do here in providing feedback and input to the draft during the consultation that it protects the consumers, as that is imperative,” he said.
“Whereas we can absolutely depend on LUCELEC for quality of service, we want to ensure that the independent power producers who will one day produce power in Saint Lucia also meet those same standards that LUCELEC is meeting and if possible raise the standards, because the situation is constantly evolving,” Fletcher added.