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Keynote Address-Official Commencement Ceremony for ACP/EU Renewable Energy Research and Development Programme Project

Keynote Address

Hon Phillip Paulwell, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining

Official Commencement Ceremony for ACP/EU Renewable Energy Research and Development Programme Project

Courtleigh Hotel and Suites

October 18, 2012

 

SALUTATIONS

>>> Prof Errol Morrison

>>>

>>>

 

 

INTRODUCTION

This morning, I’d like to speak briefly about two things: first what is, in my view, Jamaica’s most urgent problem (and we have many complex and serious problems); but also about HOW we as a nation will solve ALL our problems, no matter how big or small.

 

I’ll start with the problem: energy.

 

JAMAICA’S ENERGY SITUATION

Now, while it is true that all around the world, countries are suffering and struggling with the problem of energy, the fact is that here in Jamaica, that suffering and that struggle is particularly painful.

 

Right now in Jamaica, 90 per cent of our energy comes from imported fossil fuels. Granted, I have pushed hard for us to seek, find and tap into our own domestic supply of oil and natural gas, but we’re not quite there yet. We, however, can’t wait until we find our own to get relief from the heavy burden of the cost of oil. We can’t wait while we as a nation spend on energy as much as – if not more – than we earn from our exports. We can’t wait while our manufacturers struggle at competitiveness, paying 40 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, while our neighbours pay less than 10 cents. We cannot wait while Jamaican families and small businesses have to make hard choices about how they will pay their electricity bills. We must find solutions, and we must find them fast.

 

But enough about the problem, now I want to talk about the solution.

 

INNOVATION AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no problem small or large that Jamaican people cannot solve through innovation. History is replete with examples that show: when we are focused and start to work diligently and creatively, nothing stops us from being world-class achievers.

 

Ministers Innovation Awards

Realising the essential role that Innovation plays in the development of all the first-world countries, in 2005, while in my previous role as Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce (MITEC), I started the Minister’s Innovation Awards. This programme is intended to motivate, recognise and reward Jamaican innovators, but also to highlight the need – both to the private sector and to the people – of the importance of research and development, particularly in science and technology to being commercially successful.

 

This year I have revived the Innovation Awards, and the entry deadline is fast approaching, so if you haven’t submitted your application yet, you need to do so quickly. This year, in recognition of Jamaica 50, our prizes will be more substantial than ever before. Through the support of the PetroCaribe Development Fund and a host of other sponsors, we are giving away over $10 million in cash, but also, all winners will receive support from government to go through the patenting process, and in taking the steps to bring to market. We have also introduced this year for the first time, a special youth innovator award of $1 million, sponsored by JPS, available to the most Outstanding Innovator under the age of 30. I was informed this morning that we will have as our Guest Speaker Prof. Bert Fraser Reid. Professor Reid, a distinguished Jamaican-born chemist whose diabetic father inspired him to do ground breaking research into the chemistry of sugar, was nominated for the world’s highest accolade: the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. We will present the awards on Thursday November 8 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

 

As we prepare for this year’s competition, I’d like to remind everyone here that the last time the awards were held, it was an innovation developed at UTech that won. Rohan Taylor of UTech won both the top prize and the prize in the engineering category for the Automatic Transfer Switch, a device used to automatically regulate power supply in generators. Indeed, the very same project we are here to launch today was piloted in those awards: Earle Wilson and his team won in the Energy and Environmental Sustainability category for their innovation in producing low pressure hydrogen gas by means of electrolysis.

 

Again, I urge you all to enter. You can find us on facebook and at www.innovateja.com

 

Launch of UTech Project

This morning, I am pleased to be here because I am extremely proud of the record of the University of Technology in innovation. I should be at Cabinet retreat, but I think it is important for me to be here, to emphasize the government’s endorsement and support of the good work this institution continues to do.

 

The project we are here to launch today, (and its a mouthful, so bear with me) is to investigate the Application of Solar-Powered Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Electrolysers for the Sustainable Production of Hydrogen Gas as Fuel for Domestic Cooking.

 

This project seeks to use hydrogen gas as a fuel source for cooking, in a system aided by solar energy and water. It aims to contribute to a reduction of Jamaica’s energy problem by producing cooking gas sustainably for use initially by householders. This system could substitute for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) now being used in households.

 

It is therefore fitting that the overall objectives of the project are:

  1. To increase energy security through renewable energy diversification
  2. To contribute to reducing deforestation
  3. To reduce petroleum import bills
  4. To contribute to building resilience to climate changes impacts.

 

The project is being funded by our friends, the European Union, and in the spirit of that organisation, which has just won the Nobel Peace Prize, there will be true collaboration: between the University of Technology, Jamaica and its partners; Brunel University, the University of the West Indies, Bureau of Standards Jamaica and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.

 

It is the first of its nature to be undertaken in Jamaica, and comes at a time when initiatives like these are needed and can have a meaningful impact on the society. When we consider that in Jamaica 84% of households use Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), which is distributed in cylinders, for cooking, we can see immediately that developing the ability to produce hydrogen gas in a sustainable manner as a fuel for cooking could contribute significantly reduce the national import bill for petroleum products.

 

And there’s an added benefit. As we know, the burning of wood and charcoal as fuel for cooking is prevalent, and studies have shown that this is heightened in times of economic decline. Deforestation, as we know, is of particular concern because of the frequency of extreme climate-related events like droughts, flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes that Jamaica has experienced in recent times. The solar hydrogen gas cooking system can also be substituted for charcoal, leading to a reduction in deforestation and other associated negative environmental repercussions.

 

The main beneficiaries of this project will be the end users of the product of the project, Jamaican householders. There is also the prospect of commercialization, because this product has the potential to provide opportunities for the development of small manufacturing enterprises. The process can be income generating through the establishment of solar-hydrogen farms and also localized to have individual homes produce their own cooking gas. In addition, the manufacturing of parts required for the retrofitting of existing stoves to use hydrogen gas and the building of completely new hydrogen-stoves are other commercial opportunities.

 

We can see, therefore, that the results of this project will assist in closing the gap between academia and industry, and has the potential to be of immense benefit to the people and the economy.

 

Although the project will be implemented in Jamaica, the outcomes will be applicable to other countries within the African Caribbean and Pacific group of states, many of whom are also searching for renewable and sustainable energy technologies that are cleaner, affordable, and more reliable than fossil fuels. We cherish this opportunity for leadership, and I am confident that when it comes to innovation, Jamaica will be the trailblazer among our peers.

 

CONCLUSION

Again, I would like to congratulate the team at UTech, and to urge all the parties in this project to deliver. Jamaica needs innovators and innovations like this. And through education, research, and innovation, we will solve not just our energy problem, but indeed all our problems. I look forward to seeing the end result of this very commendable project.

 

I thank you.



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