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High Energy Costs Push NIC Towards Alternative Power Sources

Milton Henry (right), director of engineering and technical services at the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), adderssing yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange. Also photographed are NIC officials Wayne Barrett (centre), director of commercial operation; and Managing Director Mark Richards.
Milton Henry (right), director of engineering and technical services at the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), adderssing yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange. Also photographed are NIC officials Wayne Barrett (centre), director of commercial operation; and Managing Director Mark Richards.

As is the case with most local operations, the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) says energy eats up a large chunk of its operational expenses, with the State-run company spending close to $500 million on electricity in 2014/2015.

This accounted for 40 per cent of its operating costs, and already for this year, the commission’s electricity bill is at 47 per cent of operational costs. “So it is increasing as we bring on additional areas. Once there is a drought, then we have to increase the amount of pumping that is done in each of these districts. In some areas, for some months the electricity cost is greater than the revenue that we generate,” NIC Managing Director Mark Richards explained at yesterday’s meeting.

 

Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

The NIC provides irrigation services mainly to the agricultural sector, and to a lesser extent industrial and commercial operations in Yallahs, St Thomas; Rio Cobre and Colbeck in St Catherine; central clarendon; New Forest and Duff House, in Manchester; Braco, Trelawny; Hounslow and Beacon/Little Park, in St Elizabeth; and Seven Rivers in St James

 “Our electricity cost is one of the significant challenges that we operate under. We are the second-biggest consumer and payee of the JPS. For the year so far up to October, we are at $330 million. So it’s a challenge [and]we are looking at different energy management strategies and engineering strategies [such as] retrofitting our pumps [and] scheduling of our flows in order to better match the service to deal with the demand,” Director of Technical Services Milton Henry explained.

Henry said the commission faces a peculiar challenge, as while energy prices are trending down, the NIC has to be ramping up its operations to satisfy increasing demand for irrigated water.

“Every system we bring on is contributing to our cost, and we have not been able to pass on those costs to our farmers; so as we partner with them, we are saying let us find some more efficient approaches. We have had quite a bit of success… we have grown our business at a time of major challenges and continue to do so,” Henry said, noting that the NIC’s customer base has doubled from 1,265 in 2006 to 2,349 in 2014.

The NIC has moved to cut down on energy costs by retrofitting 15 of its stations with energy-saving devices. It is also looking to solar and wind energy sources. “So far we did a wind study in Manchester with a view to putting in a five megawatt capacity which would meet a significant portion of our demand. The study has been completed and shows that it is feasible. We are expected to move to the next phase… with some urgency,” he said.

The NIC is also eagerly awaiting the resumption of net billing, which the JPS suspended in May to carry out a review of the two-year pilot programme. The assessment which was conducted by the United States’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been completed, but up to last month the energy ministry was not able to tell stakeholders in the solar energy sector exactly when the programme would resume.

Source: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-energy-costs-push-NIC-towards-alternative-power-sources_45708



Category/ies:Jamaica News, News, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Wind energy.
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