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A Renewable Energy Vision for Jamaica

Renewable Energy is our energy security and future.  Renewable energy (RE) is the fuel of the future and the Government of Jamaica has recognised the need to support its initiatives.  In addition to their energy value, RE initiatives have a smaller impact on the environment compared to fossil fuels and other conventional energy sources.

In light of this, the Government of Jamaica ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1995 and developed a National Energy Policy, recommending the development of renewable resources.  RE will support energy security while simultaneously providing a mechanism to reduce the impact of climate change. The Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Energy, and its agency Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, is now investigating a number of initiatives such as wind, small hydro, solar and bio-fuels.  The renewable energy potential currently being pursued can realise approximately 100 MW of wind, 50 MW of hydro and 67 GWH of solar energy which collectively will avoid approximately 402,000 Barrels of Oil Equivalent and 570,000 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per year by 2015.

Renewable Energy development is a function of the technology employed to harness the resource and is typically very capital intensive. As such, various creative financial instruments or other mechanisms such as carbon financing and premium electricity rate (for the RE) are used to support its development.

In light of the foregoing, RE development has presented opportunities for the energy sector in terms of power “wheeling”, “net-metering” and energy efficiency and conservation.

Wheeling

Our current electricity structure and legislative framework does not allow for independent transmission and distribution of electricity across the national grid.  The possibility may exist, however, for an independent power producer to generate electricity from a renewable energy resource from one location and transmit for its own use to another, and in turn pay the utility to transmit the power on its behalf to its operation.  This concept of power transmission is known as “wheeling”.  The concept is not new and currently operates successfully in Europe and the USA.

Net-Metering

Additionally, in a single meter system the consumer can produce their own power and sell any excess to grid. They can also compensate for supply shortfalls by buying from the grid, with their meter running in both directions depending on the flow of the energy.  This can eliminate the need for battery storage as this account for approximately 30-40% of the capital cost.  In California (USA), net-metering is exercised to encourage substantial private investment in renewable energy resources and stabilising the energy supply infrastructure.

Energy Efficiency

Supplementing our energy needs through renewable energy is critical but we should first consider the efficient use and demand for energy.  In other words, a marriage exists between energy efficiency and conservation, and renewable energy – one without an end.

A Strategic Approach

There is still much research to be done to guide the development of these renewable energy resources in Jamaica.  It is neither fiction nor fallacy to believe the needed research can be done successfully in academic institutions.  Collaborative efforts between academia and industry are a recipe for economic growth and success.

For the country to research, develop and implement these initiatives in a timely manner, it will require an Aggressive Integrated Approach (AIA).  This AIA will focus on developing a sustainable program that allows for various educational institutions, Government agencies, the private sector and the people to become shareholders and stewards in a revitalized energy sector. For this purpose, the research institutions will be charged with further Research and Development in the energy sector to guarantee their dividend.  The people and the private sector would support the institutions to perform their duties. The relevant energy sector government bodies will continuously develop and implement new policies and legislation to ensure competitiveness in a dynamic market.

The strategy of an integrated approach will help Jamaica to take advantage of the opportunities that allow us to reduce our oil imports while reducing the cost of goods in the manufacturing industry – thereby effecting competitiveness.  It is not what we see, but what we experience that makes us resilient, and it’s not what we do, but how we do it that make us efficient.  So, let’s stop, think and act; our RE vision will require the work of all our people in Jamaica land we love.

Dr. Gary Jackson

Manager, CERE, PCJ



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