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Alternative energy gains more appeal as oil prices soar

As the world economy continues to grapple with the rising cost of crude oil, which has surpassed US$100 per barrel, more countries are looking towards alternative sources of energy, including renewable sources, to meet their needs.

And Jamaica has joined the global thrust to incorporate the use of alternative sources into the island’s energy mix and has designed the country’s first National Energy Policy for the creation of a modern, efficient energy infrastructure.

Energy management is also a key component of the Vision 2030 National Development Plan which speaks to energy security and efficiency.

Minister for Energy and Mining, James Robertson, who is leading the energy charge, said that the policy provides the “cornerstone” for the diversification of Jamaica’s energy base.

“We will find new ways to power our economy and reduce the amount of energy we use; we will explore indigenous sources of energy and clean technologies thereby injecting life into new ‘green’ jobs,” he stated in the document.

Robertson noted that the policy, which has a target of 11 percent renewable energy use by 2012, will help to cut down on the country’s massive import for oil; reduce the cost of energy to consumers and the productive sector thereby boosting productivity and economic development.

A key aim is to reduce pollution by minimizing the emission of greenhouse gases and the country’s carbon footprint, thereby achieving a cleaner environment and protecting the health of Jamaicans.

The institution of a wind farm is expected to bring the country closer to its target. The farm, operated by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), was commissioned in 2004 with 23 NEG Micron NW 52/900 wind turbines initially producing more than 20 megawatts of power, which was sold to the island’s sole energy provider Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) for incorporation into the national grid.

The capability of the plant was enhanced this year, with the completion of a US$49 million expansion project, with the addition of nine new turbines, to add 18 megawatts of energy. This has increased production capacity to more than 38 megawatts, generating some 106 gigawatts of electricity annually. Funding for the expansion came from the PetroCaribe Fund.

Manager for special projects at PCJ, Dr. Raymond Wright, said the incorporation of wind energy is one of the most important steps that Jamaica can take immediately.

“If the country could add more wind to its energy mix we will be able to maintain and reduce our energy costs over time, bearing in mind that the price of oil is continually moving and bearing in mind also that the wind is free and the resource is free,” he said.

Dr. Wright also pointed to the advantage of a cleaner environment as a result of the non-emission of carbon exhaust, which is a product from the burning of Bunker C and diesel oil during the production of energy using fossil fuel.

Calling for more private sector investment in wind energy harvesting, he said it could prove “surprisingly profitable…because wind can be produced somewhere between seven and ten US cents per kilowatt hour and presently, we’re paying the JPS about 29 US cents per kilowatt hour”.

General Manager of Wigton Windfarm Limited, Earl Barrett, said the move towards renewable energy is an important one as it increases the country’s global profile and impacts on the ability to secure international funding and investment.

“Any international institution that you go to borrow money…one of the first questions they ask is how is your power generation impacting on the environment? And, if it is that you’re not showing that you’re making positive steps to have a clean environment, its possible you might not get the loan because they’re asking for that,” he said.

Barrett also pointed out that pushing ahead with the alternate energy focus also places the nation a step ahead, as when oil prices increase it will become difficult for the economy in terms of purchasing oil for domestic energy production.

He said the move will also put the island at the energy forefront in the Caribbean: “We want to be the driving force in Jamaica, if not the Caribbean, for renewable energy because we think it’s here to stay as part of the future.”

Category/ies:Jamaica News.
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