More rural communities to receive electricity under revamped programme

THE Government’s programme which facilitates the provision of electricity to rural areas is being revamped to complete dormant projects, Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport (MSET) Daryl Vaz says.

Vaz, who was speaking at Wednesday’s virtual meeting of the joint select committee (JSC) currently reviewing the Electricity Act of 2015, said this exercise will address projects which have not been completed by the Rural Electrification Programme (REP) over the last three years.

“There are some existing MOUs [memoranda of understanding] between JPS [Jamaica Public Service], MSET and JSIF [Jamaica Social Investment Fund]. So, we are looking at the restructure of REP now, with a view of completing the existing projects that have been dormant for years from 2020, and, of course, new areas,” he said, noting that state minister in his ministry, JC Hutchinson, is leading this exercise.

Vaz, however, did not state how much money will be spent to undertake the exercise or when it is expected to commence. A check of the 2023/24 Estimates of Expenditure revealed that no funds were allocated for the REP this financial year.

The energy minister explained that in 2020, the REP was removed from the purview of his ministry and placed under the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development. The programme is now, once again, the responsibility of MSET.

Vaz, who is also chair of the JSC examining the Act, said the ministry has been in discussions with JPS and JSIF, under which the electrification programme falls. He promised that more information will be provided “once we have concluded our discussions and restructured with JSIF and with JPS”.

“JPS has been very cooperative in terms of understanding where we are, what we need in terms of making sure that they can assist to complete existing projects and of course, work with us, in terms of how we can get into other areas that are badly in need of rural electrification,” he said.

The REP aims to extend electricity to rural Jamaica as part of the Government’s commitment to provide the entire island with access to electricity, stimulate economic and social activity in rural Jamaica, and provide better quality life in rural communities.

According to information from JSIF, REP, in addition to its activities in rural Jamaica, is also mandated to execute the Urban Electricity Regularisation Programme (UERP). Under this programme, houses in the inner-city areas are being assisted in regularising their house wiring in order to access electricity legally.

In 2006, the JSIF entered into an MOU with JPS and the REP. The purpose of the agreement was to facilitate electricity regularisation of households in 12 selected inner-city communities. Under the MOU, REP wires houses, certifies work of contractors hired to do house wiring and other responsibilities outlined in the agreement.