October 2015

University of Technology Jamaica (UTech) File Photo

 

THE findings of a University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech)-led research project focusing on the sustainable production of hydrogen as a fuel for domestic cooking will form the basis of presentations and discussions at an International Hydrogen Conference and Exhibition being hosted by UTech at its Papine campus, November 3 – 4, 2015. The conference is first of its kind in the Caribbean region.

In 2012, UTech, along with research partners from Brunel University, United Kingdom; University of the West Indies; Bureau of Standards Jamaica; and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining began a research project on ‘The Application of Solar-Powered Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Electrolysers for the Sustainable Production of Hydrogen Gas as Fuel for Domestic Cooking’. The project is co-funded by the European Union under the ACP Caribbean & Pacific Research Programme for Sustainable Development.

Dr Ruth Potopsingh, Associate Vice- President, Caribbean Sustainable Energy & Innovation Institute in the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship at UTech, and coordinator of the conference, explains that the issue of hydrogen as a sustainable energy source is particularly relevant to Jamaica at this time.

“The use of hydrogen, whether for cooking at the household or commercial level, clean transportation fuel or utility scale applications, such as power to gas, are options which the Caribbean region needs to further examine,” she said.

Conference presentations by local and international research experts will highlight global trends in hydrogen as a key enabling pathway for renewable energy applications. Thematic areas to be examined include hydrogen from renewable resources, environmental issues and climate change, hydrogen as a transportation fuel, the future of hydrogen technology, hydrogen storage systems, education and public awareness for using hydrogen as a domestic fuel, and case studies on successful hydrogen projects.

Keynote speakers will be:

* Phillip Paulwell, minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining (MSTEM)

* Paola Amadei, ambassador, head of delegation of the European Union in Jamaica

* Prof Maria Kolokotroni, Professor / theme leader for Resource Efficient Future Cities at Brunel University

* Dr Andrei Tchouvelev, Chairman of ISO’s primary technical committee on hydrogen technologies based in Canada.

Other presenters include the project research team led by Dr Earle Wilson, lecturer, School of Engineering, UTech; Dr Zahir Dehouche, Brunel University; Dr Kurt Edward, UWI; Omar Alcock, MSTEM; and Hunstan Hunter, Bureau of Standards, Jamaica. Presentations will also be delivered by representatives from industry and the European Union ACP Research Programme for Sustainable Development.

The international hydrogen conference will also include an exhibition featuring faculty and student research as well as innovations and service providers from the local energy sector. It will be free and open to the public, but participants are being asked to register owing to limited capacity. The public exhibition opens to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on each day. Further information is available at http://www.solarhydrogen.utechsapna.com or via email CSEII@Utech.edu.jm.

 

The Observer

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) ministers and climate change negotiators began a two-day meeting here yesterday to fine-tune the region`s negotiating position ahead of the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) to be held in Paris later next month.

The November 30 to December 11 conference forms part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCC).

The meeting here is a follow-up to a similar one held here in September and the organisers said the objective is to prepare the ministers to engage in the pre-COP meeting which will be organised by the COP Presidency in November.

“With just over one month before the start of COP 21 and on the heels of a climate negotiators preparatory meetings held earlier this month in Bonn, Germany, it is an opportune time for Caricom negotiators and ministers to be updated on the critical issues, especially those with implications for Small Island Developing States and to concretise position(s) going to Paris.”

The ministers will be apprised of the state of climate change negotiations under the UNFCC for a new climate change agreement to be finalised at the COP 21.

The meeting here is being organised by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, the High Level Support Mechanism and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre.

The Observer 

An in-depth look at the population’s resistance to climate change, in addition to an analysis on vulnerable groups in the country, are among several issues that will be integral in the new Population Dynamics and Climate Change Resilience project, to be undertaken by the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA).

Daniel Schensul and Sainan Zhang, who are both technical specialists at the UNFPA headquarters in New York, told The Gleaner in an interview on Friday, that there needs to be more robust research that focuses on people, in order to adapt effectively to the impact of climate change.

Massive Changes

“The people are very critical in the fight to mitigate against the impacts of climate change and this project will zoom in on just that. The aim is to have comprehensive data with the use of new technology that enables us to know a lot more about the population at every level, understanding what factors make them more vulnerable or more resilient to massive changes to the climate change,” Schensul said at the UNFPA offices in New Kingston.

“This will definitely be an asset for policymakers, as the plan is to cover the whole country at the community level. We will be looking at what kind of houses people live in, where they live, specifically down to their neighbourhood, their education, occupation, access to services and every other information that will be essential as to how well people are able to adapt to climate change,” he continued.

“This new technology will pull all of that information together, because if you don’t know that it is happening you can’t do anything about it.”

Strong Linkage

“We see a lot of projects and data looking at the environmental side, which means there are a lot of infrastructural programmes such as the building of sea walls and initiatives to protect the economy, but, at the end of the day when flood comes, people’s lives will still be at risk.”

Similarly, Sandra Paredez, a census technical adviser based in Jamaica, who noted that the group has collaborated with the Planning Institute of Jamaica, said there was a strong linkage between population dynamics and climate change, resilience.

“We see more and more that there are strong linkages between population dynamics and climate change, and so I believe that this project will fill gaps that exist, especially how we treat with the allocation of resources,” she said.

“We will be using the 2011 census data and exploring the use of the 2001 data to see how best we can explore issues such as the elderly population, age structures and the different vulnerable groups in order to fully analyse the different dimensions of vulnerabilities that exist,” she said.

“I believe we are filling a gap, because people are in a position to influence and they are also the ones being impacted, so all plans have to be centred on them. While we want to save forests and address water issues, it is because it affects people’s lives and that is what the UN tries to focus on – who gets affected, where they are located and what makes them vulnerable to these environmental factors due to climate change.”

 

The Gleaner

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The amendments to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) Act will facilitate increased investment in the country’s electricity sector and make the entity’s governance structure more transparent and accountable.

This was the word from minister of justice, Senator Mark Golding, in his contribution to the debate on the Bill in the Senate on Friday, which was passed.

He noted that the mechanism used by the OUR to set tariffs has discouraged the levels of investment needed to develop Jamaica’s baseload capacity, which is crucial for the country’s economic development.

“Jamaica needs to attract substantial private sector investment capital, much of it from international investors, to the electricity sector, in order to achieve urgent national priorities on which the competitiveness and growth of the economy depends,” he said.

Describing the OUR governance structure as “outdated,” and “problematic,” Golding said the entity is affected by very limited governance arrangements in “which excessive power is concentrated within an internal bureaucratic structure, which lacks robust checks and balances, and has ineffective accountability.”

He told the Upper House that the issues will be addressed by requiring the OUR to be guided by the amended Act, the All-Island Electric Licence of 2011, and certain specified principles, when setting tariffs for the electricity sector.

“This more transparent decision-making system is being supported by an expanded governance framework being built into the OUR’s structure as well as by this legislation,” he said.

The new provisions will require that the regulator, when setting rates, to take into account: the cost, safety and quality of the service being provided, as well as Jamaica’s economic development; special rates for consumers, who might not be able to pay the full cost of electricity, as well as those involved in economic development activities; and tariffs for special economic zones.

It will also facilitate the inclusion of non-executive members to the OUR, to provide oversight support.

The House of Representatives passed the amended Act on October 13.

IT APPEARS that the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) has identified a preferred bidder for the supply of gas to a 190-megawatt plant, which the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is to build by the fourth quarter of 2017.

A member of the Portia Simpson Miller-chaired Cabinet said on Friday that the amendments being made to the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) Act was part of a move to ensure Jamaica is able to attract significant investment capital.

“Jamaica has found it difficult to attract investment in the baseload capacity over many years,” Mark Golding said in the Senate.

He noted that with Jamaica becoming the first non-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) country to benefit from the grant of a licence for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States, consideration is now being given to establish a gas hub in the country.

“It has given us a strategic advantage in establishing this regional hub, and we have gone through a process of seeking investor interest. We have had significant investor interest for the establishment of the gas terminal to supply gas to the new 190-megawatt plant that JPS will be building and also to possibly provide gas from that terminal to other users in the country and, indeed, in the region. I believe a preferred bidder has been identified,” Golding said.

He lamented the fact that despite many attempts to get LNG to Jamaica, the country has been unable to do so mainly because of uncertainty about regulation of the electricity sector.

Yesterday, Phillip Paulwell, the country’s energy minister, said an announcement is to be made shortly by ESET about the selection of two bidders – one to construct the new generation plant and the other to build the infrastructure and deliver LNG to the facility.

“It is fundamentally part of the diversification that is taking place. The price of electricity has gone down by 30 per cent already, but what we want to achieve is diversification, and we would never get back to the state where when the price of crude oil goes up, we are affected by severely high prices,” Paulwell said.

Meanwhile, Golding said in the Senate that the amended OUR Act will lead to improved investor interest. He argued that it would benefit Jamaica “by ensuring that our baseload capacity can be transformed and that we can get the investments needed”.

According to the Cabinet minister, investment in providing baseload energy requires significant spending, and investors are “not prepared to invest in this market where their pricing is set in a totally arbitrary manner by persons who are not accountable to anyone”.

Undermining Regulator’s Independence

Among the amendments set out in the new OUR bill, which has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament, are for the OUR to use certain factors in determining the rates to be paid to a utility company for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. Those factors include observing policy directions of the Cabinet and examining the licence of the utility provider, specifically as it relates to determining the appropriate rate of return for investment.

But opposition senators opposed the amendment, saying it was guaranteeing profit to investors and that it would undermine the independence of the regulator.

“The OUR will no longer be able to call itself independent,” Kamina Johnson Smith said, as she raised concerns about a possible overreach of the executive.

“We will no longer be able to truthfully state, as a fact, that we can boast of having an independent regulator,” she added.

“It is anti-transparency, anti-investor and anti-people of Jamaica,” Johnson Smith charged.

But Golding said she has misunderstood the intent of the bill and said further that getting cheaper energy for Jamaica hinges, in part, on the provisions in the bill. He argued also that Cabinet has a most important role in the process and thus it “cannot totally drop its hands in the face of a dysfunctional regulatory system that is denying the country effective” solutions to lower energy prices.

“We cannot divest, in the name of independence, to unaccountable bureaucrats, the ability to stymie investment through either their own incompetence or whatever may be the problem. We have suffered under that system,” Golding added.

 

The Gleaner 

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EXTREME weather events associated with climate change have cost the country in excess of $128 billion in damage over the decade between 2002 and 2012.

Minister of Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill made the startling revelation at the launch of the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism at the Four Seasons Hotel in New Kingston recently.

“This covers a range of damage ranging from social dislocation and loss of property and lives, to which a dollar value could not be affixed,” said Pickersgill.

The adaptation programme, which falls under the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR), and which is funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) to the tune of US$7.8 million under the global Climate Investment Funds (CIF), will increase the country’s resilience to climate change by enhancing the island’s adaptive capacity across priority sectors.

He said it was common knowledge that Jamaica is among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change. He noted, however, that with the relevant training, policies and national education, the phenomenon which threatens hotter temperatures, rising sea levels, longer, drier droughts and more extreme weather events, will become less of a challenge. The goal, Pickersgill said, is a Jamiaca that is climate change resilient and focused on its sustainability.

“We envision a future that is climate resilient; one where economic development and environmental sustainability are parallel outcomes, and one in which every Jamaican man, woman and child can enjoy the benefits of this,” the minister said.

“What the PPCR will provide, therefore, is an opportunity to build our capacity, and to look beyond weather and hydrological information to a focus on climate information for decision-making,” he continued.

The technical co-operation project valued at over US$19 million will include the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation in local sectorial and national plans.

IDB Country Reperesentative Therese Turner-Jones said Jamaica could access up to US$10 million as the facility allows for a concessional loan-financing window.

“The three-component programme will include mainstreaming climate change into development planning, supporting climate change resiliency efforts in the upper Rio Minho watershed area, and implementing innovative climate financing, particularly in the agribusiness and tourism sectors across island for SMES [small and medium-sized enterprises]. The lessons learned from these adaptation interventions will be disseminated throughout the island,” Turner-Jones said at the launch.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), which is the national implementing organisation, reiterated the government’s pleasure that the island was selected among six Caribbean regional PPCR and pilot countries.

Deputy Director General Claire Bernard said the pilot programme could fulfil outcome 14 of Vision 2030, which speaks to effecting strategic objectives to addressing issues of climate change, adaptation and disaster risk production.

In terms of integrating climate change as a subject and policy objective across all ministries of government, minister Pickersgill pointed out that training for policy-makers and climate change focal points across all ministries has already begun.

Jamaica Observer

Venezuela announced Saturday that its state-owned oil company will buy a 25 per cent stake in West Indies Oil Company and that it will establish a regional bank with the Antigua & Barbuda government to fund a new resort.

The announcement came during a visit to Antigua by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was on a whirlwind weekend Caribbean tour that included stops at three other nations – Suriname, St Lucia and Grenada. He was meeting with their leaders to discuss economic and social development initiatives.

Venezuelan officials said the regional bank would finance the new Simon Bolivar Resort Hotel and other development projects using resources generated by the PetroCaribe program, which provides low-cost oil financing to Caribbean and Central American countries and invests in social development projects.

Just The Beginning

Executives at Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, said the purchase of a stake in West Indies Oil Company was just the beginning of “joint investments” between the countries.

The Caribbean nations visited by Maduro are members of the PetroCaribe programme, which critics say has lost effectiveness with the drop in oil prices. Last March, Barclays analysts estimated Venezuela had cut the program’s daily oil shipments in half, to 200,000 barrels from 400,000.

Maduro defended the programme Saturday, saying Venezuela is looking to increase cooperation with its Caribbean neighbours.

“PetroCaribe is a reality and it is our starting point, our foundation to build a powerful economic zone,” Maduro said.

Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that he and Maduro “agreed to work in various areas of cooperation”.

 

The Gleaner

A new law recently passed in France mandates that all new buildings that are built in commercial zones in France must be partially covered in either plants or solar panels.

Green roofs, as they are called, have an isolating effect which helps to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building during the winter or cool it in the summer. They are capable of retaining rainwater and reducing problems with runoff, and also offer birds a place to call home in the urban jungle.

French environmental activists originally wanted to pass a law that would make the green roofs cover the entire surface of all new roofs.

However, partially covered roofs make for a great start, and are still a huge step in the right direction.

Some say the law that was passed is actually better, as it gives the business owners a chance to install solar panels to help provide the buildings with renewable energy, thereby leaving even less of a footprint.

Green roofs are already very popular in Germany and Australia, as well as Canada’s city of Toronto! This  by-law was adopted in 2009, by the city of Toronto which mandated green roofs on all new industrial and residential buildings.

Benefits of Green Roofs

There are so many benefits to green roofs. Here are just a few:

  • Adding natural beauty and major aesthetic improvement to buildings, which in turn increases the investment opportunity.
  • Helping contribute to landfill diversion by prolonging the life of waterproofing membranes, using recycled materials, and prolonging the service of heating, ventilation, and HVAC systems through decreased use.
  • Green roofs assist with storm water management because water is stored by the substrate, then taken up by plants, and thus returned to the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation. They also retain rainwater and moderate the temperature of the water and act as natural filters for the water that does run off. They delay the time at which runoff occurs, which results in decreased stress on sewer systems during peak periods.
  • The plants on green roofs do a great job of capturing airborne pollutants and other atmospheric deposition. They can also filter noxious gasses.
  • They open up new areas for community gardens, commercial and recreational space in busy cities where this space is generally quite limited.

France is definitely on the right track, but it should be a mandate that all new buildings being built in North America, and even worldwide, adopt this amazing idea to reap all of the potential benefits.

 

CS Globe

So much for even cheaper gas!

World oil prices have charged higher this week, breaking back above the psychological barrier of $50 a barrel for the first time since July.

U.S. crude futures were trading two percent higher at $50.50 early on Friday.

As recently as last month some analysts were warning of a risk that prices would collapse to $20 a barrel. What’s going on?

Here are three reasons for the bounce:

1. Geopolitical worries

Tensions in the Middle East, the biggest oil producing region, have pushed prices up.

Russia launched a military operation in Syria this week, marking the beginning of a new and closer cooperation between Moscow and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The West has criticized Russia for the move.

Investors are worried more violence in the region could impact production and transport. Reports of Russian cruise missiles falling short and landing in Iran haven’t helped settle their nerves.

oil friday

2. Dovish Fed minutes

Minutes of the most recent Federal Reserve meeting released Thursday showed the central bank is not in a rush to raise U.S. interest rates. The minutes weighed on the dollar — it was down 0.75% against the euro on Friday — which in turn supported global oil prices.

Oil and other commodities are priced in dollars, so a weaker dollar makes them more affordable meaning prices can rise to compensate.

3. Falling U.S. production

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude oil production declined by 120,000 barrels per day in September compared with August.

It said U.S. production will continue declining until the middle of next year, before growth returns in late 2016. The agency also said it expects global demand for oil in 2016 to grow at its fastest in six years — that’s also good for prices.

Oil has been under pressure in recent months, having crashed more than 50% since last summer. Prices fell to their lowest level in six and half years in August, trading below $42 a barrel.

This week’s rally has sparked hope that the market may have finally turned, but some analysts are still cautious.

“We do think that the price of oil will struggle to stay above the $60 level as this will bring on all the rigs which were switched off,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade.

CNN

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With the emergence of what he calls ‘a new climate regime’, physicist Dr Michael Taylor has painted a picture of a Jamaica and Caribbean region that supports the case for an ambitious deal at the international climate talks set for Paris in December.

“The number of warm days everywhere in the Caribbean is increasing. Over the last 50 years, we have been steadily having more warm days. And we are having more warm nights. This is the kind of new regime we are entering into,” he told a workshop on the Third National Communication and Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge last Tuesday.

Taylor noted that what was also indicative of the new regime and would become entrenched is rainfall variability and a drying trend resulting in a reduction of seven to eight per cent in the length of the rainy season and an increase of six to eight per cent in the length of the dry season.

“When we look at the future climate for Jamaica, temperatures keep going up and, from the best case scenario to the worst case scenario, the present research suggests it’s between one and 3.6 degrees Celsius by end of century. Thirty to 98 per cent of days annually will be considered ‘hot’ by the 2090s and only two per cent ‘cool’ by the 2080s,” revealed Taylor, the head of the Climate Studies Group Mona.

At the same time, he said there would be even higher sea levels, alluding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), which projects an increase of up to 59 centimetres by 2100.

Key Things To Know

The situation, the physicist said, is one where there are three key things to know – the first is that “our sensitivity is being exposed”.

At the same time, Taylor added, “our vulnerability is being expanded” with the “vulnerability of sectors and areas of Caribbean life, which were veiled because of their secondary linkages also emerging and at a faster pace. New vulnerable groupings are also emerging as a result of an expanded exposure to the climate threat”.

Those vulnerable groupings include flora and fauna, outdoor workers, asthma sufferers, the elderly and the young, as well as those physically challenged, in addition to cultural assets and small-business owners.

“And that will continue,” he predicted.

Ultimately, Taylor said, “our viability is being endangered” and one needs look no further than the impact of the hurricane events of the last decade”.

In 2004, for example, Hurricane Ivan cost some eight per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) while Hurricane Dean cost the island some 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2007.

“You can’t have an impact of eight per cent in GDP and a recurring impact on your economy, and your capacity to continue developing as a nation not be impacted,” Taylor cautioned.

The situation is one, he said, that warrants “urgent, decisive, inclusive and considerate” action at the national level.

The island’s climate negotiators to the United Nations are intent on such action at the international level, as efforts to eke out a favourable deal in Paris get into high gear.

Among other things, Jamaica has joined the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in calling for a limit on global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and not the two degrees currently on the table.

Steep Emission Cuts

This negotiating position is one that would require steep greenhouse gas-emission cuts from developed as well as fast-developing countries. But Jamaica and AOSIS negotiators say this is critical for the “survival of small island states”, according to a document circulated by the Climate Change Division (CCD), at a recent journalist workshop hosted by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Jamaica also wants universal participation in the climate deal, “along with robust means of ensuring transparency of action and support”.

It wants, too, to ensure that a framework exists to deal with loss and damage.

“There are limits to the impacts that we can adapt to, so loss and damage must be included as a central element of the 2015 agreement – one that is distinct and separate from climate change as it represents irreversible and permanent damage”, the document noted.

 

The Gleaner