March 2018

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of a concerted, ongoing operation to hack and spy on the United States’ energy grid and other critical infrastructure, and separately imposed sanctions on Russian officials for alleged high-tech interference in the 2016 American presidential election.

US national security officials said the FBI, the Homeland Security Department and American intelligence agencies determined that Russian intelligence and others were behind the attacks on the energy sector.

The officials said the Russians deliberately chose US energy industry targets, obtaining access to computer systems and then conducting “network reconnaissance” of industrial control systems that run American factories and the electricity grid.

The US government has helped energy businesses kick out the Russians from all systems currently known to have been penetrated, according to the officials. The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security information, left open the possibility of discovering more breaches, and said the federal government was issuing an alert to the energy industry to raise awareness about the threat and improve preparation.

The accusations and accompanying sanctions are some of the strongest actions to date by the administration to punish Russia for hacking and other efforts to sow discord in the American democracy. Also on Thursday, the US joined the Britain, France and Germany in a joint statement blaming Moscow for the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy who was living in England.

The list of Russians now under sanction includes the 13 indicted last month by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his Russia-related investigation into alleged election interference. The sanctions are the first use of the new powers that Congress passed last year to punish Moscow for meddling in an election that Republican Donald Trump won over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. He said others would face punishment in the future under the new sanctions law “to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilising activities”.

Five companies cited

Altogether, 19 Russians were cited. Also sanctioned were five Russian companies, including the Internet Research Agency, which is accused of orchestrating a mass online disinformation campaign to affect the presidential election result.

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions amid withering criticism of Trump and his administration for failing to use its congressionally mandated authority to punish Russia. Trump himself has been sceptical of the election accusations.

The targets include officials working for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. Thursday’s action freezes any assets the individuals and entities may have in the United States and bars Americans from doing business with them.

The Treasury Department said the GRU and Russia’s military both interfered in the 2016 election and were “directly responsible” for the NotPetya cyberattack that hit businesses across Europe in June 2017.

“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” said Mnuchin said.

Among those affected was Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘chef’ and who ran the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, and 12 of the agency’s employees. They were included in Mueller’s indictment last month.


The vexed issue of the massive debt owed to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) was on Wednesday discussed by Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) amid members expressing displeasure over the darkness of roads in their constituencies.

The PAAC, which was examining the Second Supplementary Estimates 2017-2018, heard that a total of $8.6 billion was owed to the company for street lights by the Ministry of Local Government and $800 million for supplying electricity to government-run schools by the Ministry of Education. The street light debt dates back several years, and some committee members bemoaned the fact that sections of their communities, and roads islandwide were without street lights.

The PAAC heard that despite the missing street lights, Government has been charged the same rate by the light and power company. Financial Secretary Darlene Morrison gave a breakdown of the debt by the two entities following a request from PAAC member Phillip Paulwell for a breakdown of the debt to the company.

“… With respect to the amounts owed to JPS, the $8 billion that is referenced there is actually a rounding. It’s $7.8 billion to $7.9 billion, and it’s specifically for street lighting. That is what is owed for street lighting by the local authorities. The other reference speaks to arrears owed by education facilities,” Morrison said.

Committee member Mikhail Phillips asked how much was owed to the National Water Commission as the entity was strapped for cash and unable to do anything in the last two years.

The financial secretary was unable to provide the figure.

PAAC member Juliet Holness was not amused by the debt figures and the missing bulbs.

“I must add my voice to member (Phillip) Paulwell. We are paying for electricity bills at the same rate each year regardless of whether or not a 100 per cent of our street lights work or 50 per cent. We have one steady bill, it would appear, while still-substantial portions of the country remain in darkness. It would be very good for the Ministry of Finance in its discourse with the JPS to verify how soon they will be at a stage where we can start seeing declining bills and better service,” she said to the committee. She said that rural roads continued to be neglected.


The good news is that more and more coal powered generating facilities are being taken offline as competition from natural gas and renewables make them too expensive to operate. The bad news is the land they are built on is often so battered and bruised from years of pollution it can’t be used for anything else.

holyoke solar power plant

Credit: Holyoke Redevelopment Authority

The majority of that pollution comes from coal ash stored on  the premises. That nasty stuff is what remains after coal is burned. It contains concentrations of mercury, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium, to name but a few. Not only does the property have little commercial value because it is basically a toxic waste dump, but maintaining it after a generating station is decommissioned costs a lot of money. According to Utility Dive, A study by the Tennessee Valley Authority last year found it costs $3.5 million a year to monitor and maintain a 22 acre coal ash lagoon. A 350 acre lagoon can cost as much as $200 million a year.

Now factor in that the Sierra Club recently found that there are 1,424 coal waste disposal sites across the United States, of which nearly 1,100 are coal ash storage ponds. Do the math and you come up with a staggering number and, of course, the way the utility industry is structured in most of the country, utility customers get stuck with the bill. Nevertheless, the utility companies went whining to Congress about the costs of monitoring their pollution as mandated by the hated Obama Administration.

That program cost about $100 million a year for the whole country — about half the cost of maintaining one large coal ash pond. How dare a black man order right-thinking, God-fearing white men to spend money on cleaning up the mess they made? It’s unlawful! Illegal! Unconstitutional! And Scott Pruitt, the Darth Vader of the Trump administration agreed. He is hard at work rolling back that and other “job killing regulations” to please his corporate masters.

But there is a glimmer of hope in the darkness. Two small US utility companies — Holyoke Gas and Electric in Massachusetts and Orlando Utilities Commission Energy Center in Florida — have built solar power plants atop coal ash ponds that have been capped. Repurposing shuttered coal plant sites is “an overlooked opportunity to put these sites back into use and bring jobs and investment to communities that have been hit hard,” says Tom McKittrick, CEO of Forsite Development, a North Carolina company that makes its living finding new and profitable uses for old utility installations. “A lot of utilities tear the plant down, put a fence around the site, and forget about it, but they can turn these liabilities into assets.”

Not every site will be suitable for solar panels, however. Each has to be evaluated on its own merits. Factors like flat land that is not in a flood plain and availability of a substation and high voltage transmission lines in the area are important but community support for the project is critical.  “Community support is crucial in any project and, in many places, even if you are building the fountain of youth, there will be complaints,” says Jonathan Cole, CEO of Greenwood Energy, the company that made the Holyoke, Massachusetts solar power plant a reality.

Other utility companies are beginning to take notice. Projects in Pittsburgh and Michigan are under consideration. Repurposing generating stations may not be sexy, but it could become an important piece of making America’s utility grid greener, which will benefit us all. “The key to the project’s viable economics was the falling price of solar modules,” says Jonathan Cole said. “It would not have been financially viable at 2015 panel prices.” All the more reason why the latest tariff increases on solar cells and solar panels is the wrong move at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.

March 13th, 2018 by 

CleanTech Media

Team Leader, Electrical and Electronics Department, Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), Garfield Morgan (centre), shows Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Affairs Commission, Dolsie Allen (left); and Director General in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Vivian Brown, a hair dryer that was tested by the BSJ that did not meet the required standard, at the launch of the Household and Similar Electrical Appliances Standard by the BSJ. The Standard covers general safety requirements of electrical appliances for household and similar purposes and outlines the necessary tests and safety conditions required to protect consumers against the hazards of electricity or electrical equipment. The launch was held at the BSJ’s Multi-Purpose Facility, Winchester Road, Kingston, on Friday, March 2, 2018.

The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) has launched a new standard that will cover general safety requirements for electrical appliances for household and similar purposes.

Launched on March 2 at the Bureau’s office, in Kingston, the new standard, known as JS IEC 60335-1:2010 (AMD1:2013+ AMD2:2016), will also cover voltages for appliances not more than 250 for single-phase units and 480 volts in other appliances.

It also covers battery-operated appliances and other direct current (DC) supplied appliances, and appliances not intended for normal household use, but nevertheless may be a source of danger to the public as well as children.

The standard replaces the JS144: Part 1:1987 Jamaican Standard Specification for Safety of Household and Similar Electrical Appliances—General Requirements.

It does not cover appliances intended exclusively for industrial purposes, personal computers and similar equipment and transportable motor-operated electric tools.

Addressing the launch, Senior Energy Engineer in the Science, Energy and Technology Ministry, Mark Williams, said implementation of the standard will lead to greater empowerment of consumers, “allowing them to be more informed when purchasing appliances for their homes.”

“It will also give a sense of confidence seeing a label that indicates that the equipment has been tested, certified and safe for use,” he said.

Mr. Williams acknowledged that the standard represents a small part of the wider energy strategies that the country is currently pursuing.

He commended the BSJ on the new standard and pointed out that it is directly in tandem with goal one of the National Energy Policy, which seeks to ensure that Jamaicans use energy wisely, and aggressively pursue opportunities for energy conservation and efficiency.

“Residential appliances and equipment represent one of the fastest growing energy loads. Therefore the development of these standards is critical to the whole process of promoting energy efficiency in the use of household and similar electrical appliances,” he said.

Meanwhile, Director General in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Vivian Brown, commended the BSJ for its continued support of the electrical industry.

He emphasised the role the Government will continue to play in the protection of the health and safety of consumers, while at the same time, “providing them with crucial information to guide their choice when purchasing household and electrical appliances.”

Data provided by the Director General showed that between April and September 2017, local consumers made 196 complaints to the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) relating to electrical equipment and appliances.

“This showed an increase from the 176 complaints in 2016, a movement of 11.4 per cent,” he noted.

Additionally, in 2017, the Jamaica Fire Brigade reported that over the previous three years there had been a steady increase in residential fires caused by defective electrical wiring, faulty or failed appliances or damaged appliance cables.

“Standards are critical in the conformity of our products and services with international standards, and providing assurance to consumers on the quality, safety and reliability of these products and services (is necessary),”he said.

For her part, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CAC, Dolcie Allen, said standards should become a way of life for consumers and not only during times of trouble.

“We will be working with the Bureau and also with the (vendors) of these electrical items to see how much we can educate our consumers on doing their due diligence,” she said.

Jamaica Information Service

Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (right), is greeted by Tashri Thompson, a student of the Friendship Primary School in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, as he arrives at the school on February 8 to participate in the launch of a coin drive dubbed ‘Education Makes Cents’. Also pictured (from left) are:student, Mykalia Peak; Chairman of the school Board, Abdon Campbell (partially hidden); and principal of the school, Collington Powell.

Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, has reiterated the call for Jamaicans to better protect children against all harm, especially the danger of fires.

This comes against the background of a series of fire-related incidents, the latest of which claimed the life of seven-year-old Amelia Williams on February 8.

“It concerns us that we have had too many of these fires, so we have to ensure that our homes are safe places for our children and that they are monitored at all times,” he said.

The Minister was speaking to journalists on February 8, following the launch of a coin drive, dubbed ‘Education Makes Cents’, at the Friendship Primary School in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, where Amelia was a grade-one student.

Senator Reid emphasised that young children must always have adult supervision, noting that it is “really disconcerting when our precious children are taken from us so soon and in such tragic circumstances”.

He added that greater effort must be made “to strengthen our capability to ensure that we better care for, nurture and protect our children”.

Senator Reid said the Education Ministry is working to increase its input in safeguarding the nation’s children, particularly through the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, “to make sure that our children are well taken care of, and that there are no vulnerable situations that our children find themselves in”.

In extending condolences to Amelia’s family and school community, the Minister expressed the hope that this latest tragedy “will inspire us to even greater resolve to make sure we protect our children from all harm and danger”.

At least six children have died in fires since the start of the year.

Jamaica Information Service

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley (left), interacts with students of the Merl Grove High School in Kingston on Wednesday. Also pictured (from second left) are president and chief executive officer of the Jamaica Public Service, Emanuel DaRosa; and principal of Merl Grove, Dr. Majorie Fullerton.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley said the Government is leading by example and saving money as it works to encourage Jamaicans to use energy responsibly.

He noted that through various initiatives under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme (EECP), the aim is to ensure that government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) become a model for the rest of the society in terms of energy management.

“We believe that if we as the public sector show the rest of Jamaica how we are saving as it relates to managing electricity, (by) cutting down our electricity bill, it will not only act as a perfect example, but also you will see the workers within the public sector bringing to their homes, their communities, the practices that we are doing within the public sector,” he said.

Dr Wheatley was speaking at a ceremony for the relaunch of the JPS Foundation Energy Club at Merl Grove High School in Kingston on Wednesday.

He informed that the Government has realised $135 million in savings to date under the EECP.


The initiative, being implemented by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica through funding from international partners, aims to retrofit a range of government facilities, including public health, administrative and educational buildings, and facilitate training in best practices for energy efficiency and conservation.

Some of the conservation measures undertaken include coating glass windows/doors to reduce the amount of heat entering buildings; improving the cooling system by using more energy-efficient air-conditioning units; and installing cool-roofing systems.

Over 40 government facilities from the health, finance, education and security sectors have, so far, been retrofitted with solar-control film, cool-roof solutions or energy-efficient air-conditioning systems.

To ensure continued responsible energy use at government facilities, Dr Wheatley pointed out that just last month, an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Standards Guide was launched, which contains standards to which MDAs will be held accountable in order to lower electricity consumption.

The guide, which will be made available in April, was developed through the EECP.