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The search for oil offshore southern Jamaica continues as a second series of exploration activities, specifically 2D seismic surveys, are expected to begin before the end of this week.

The exploration activities, which are being underatken by Tullow Oil — an independent oil and gas exploration and production company based in the United Kingdom — as part of a Production Sharing Agreement that it signed with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) in 2014, are forms of marine surveys conducted to identify sub-surface structures that may contain hydrocarbon (oil and gas) deposits.

The search is expected to cover a marine area of approximately 32,065 square kilometres of the Walter Morant area, comprising of 11 individual blocks.

In 2015, Tullow Oil conducted a series of exploration activities, including a bathymetric (sea floor) survey, soil sampling and an environmental survey, to assess priority habitats and species, fishing activity and seabed habitats in the area. Tullow Oil acquired 3,000 kilometres of 2D seismic data in the first quarter of last year and is now planning to acquire an additional 670 kilometres of 2D seismic data to further develop an understanding of the area.

The upcoming surveys will be conducted by seismic company Seabird Exploration, through the use of its specially outfitted vessel, the Harrier Explorer, and will focus on gathering data on an area between Blower Rock at Pedro Banks and the offshore seas south of Clarendon.

“We’ve seen some of the sheens from the oil seeps that helps us understand that there might be a source kitchen and that is one of the components necessary. You need to have a kitchen… and we are hoping to go ahead and confirm that, through the seismic programme,” Non-Op Business Unit Manager at Tullow Oil Eric Bauer told the

Jamaica Observer yesterday during a tour of the Harrier Explorer, which was docked at the port of Kingston.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley, who got a tour of the vessel, stated that he was impressed that they have reached the stage where they are going into 2D seismic studies, which he said will help further the search towards finding prospective oil or gas deposits in the selected area.

“We are cognisant of the fact that it’s a process, but we just want to use the opportunity to keep the Jamaican public informed. It’s a partnership between Government and Tullow, but also a partnership between the Government and people, because we want our citizens to be aware.

“We are now at the stage where we are doing the 2D seismic study and this is going to take around six days for the collection of data, and that data will be analysed over a one-year period and if it is positive enough, we move to the 3D seismic survey,” he told the press.

He explained that the 3D seismic survey gives a more detailed idea as to the layer of land, and if that comes up positive, then they will move towards the actual drilling of the first exploration well.

Wheatley also expressed his appreciation to both Tullow and Seabird Exploration for their efforts to balance environmental consideration along with the country’s own development, through their environmental protection efforts and by forming relationships with fishermen and other relevant stakeholders.

Party chief for the Harrier Explorer, David Healy, also underscored the importance of local involvement, highlighting that one of the two support vessels that will be accompanying the Harrier Explorer is a local one.

“We will need both as it’s very important to have not just somebody who knows the job that we do… but local knowledge is very important as well. So it’s always important for us to bring in as many local people as we can, because they know (the) area, what’s happening and when it happens,” Healy explained.

“When you speak to people, we don’t want them to think that we are just going to come in there and destroy their fishing areas or anything of the sort, we also have to protect our own stuff, and so it’s beneficial to both of us if we can work together, so it’s good support,” he said.

From left: Renford Smith, Marcus Grant and Alan Searchwell connecting the electrical components of a solar panel at the Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, recently.

As the debate intensifies over the possible rate increases which could face Jamaicans as more and more customers leave the Jamaica Public Service Company’s (JPS) grid, there are calls for a collaborative approach to the issue.

Manager of the Grid Performance Department at the JPS, Lincoy Small, says the various stakeholders must engage in dialogue to find an approach to provide the cheapest source of electricity to Jamaicans.

According to Small, it cannot be a matter of either renewable energy (RE) or staying on the JPS grid but a combination of the two.

“JPS is not telling people that renewable is not the way to go, because JPS even operates renewable facilities, but the key thing is to get them (grid and RE) working together in tandem to come up with the best synergy of what is best for the customer and what is best for the country,” said Small.

His comments came as Robert Wright, president of the Jamaica Solar Energy Association, told The Sunday Gleaner he has no desire for Jamaicans to leave the JPS grid.

Grid Stability

Wright said he strongly believes RE should be maximised and not just limited to large systems scattered across the island, but smaller systems distributed right across the country.

“When you have these smaller systems spread across the country it provides for better grid stability, and also it allows for more people to participate in clean energy as opposed to simply relying on large solar farms,” said Wright.

But Small said, based on experience due to the unpredictability of RE, the JPS sometimes has to resort to load shedding when customers jump on and off the grid.

He reiterated that JPS’s customers could face additional cost if the impact of RE on the grid is not handled carefully.

“So we are accepting solar power from the customers and as soon as something happens it drops off, and does so much quicker than the grid can even respond on some of those occasions, and as a result you have to be running expensive machines that are quicker to deal with those sun drop-offs or have to shed people’s light,” argued Small.

“And if you run these expensive machines or shed people’s light it means the overall cost to run the grid is going to be absorbed by the customer; you are going to have to pay for a more expensive energy source.”

The JPS executive said the company is actively seeking to incorporate new technology to deal with the loss of the intermittent renewable resources.

But Wright argued that the good news for Jamaicans is that the cost of RE is declining rapidly, enabling it to compete with traditional sources of energy.

“A system that a typical household would need in Jamaica two years ago would cost $1 million; that same system today cost $500,000, so we have seen a significant drop in prices,” said Wright.

“Also what is revolutionary is that the cost of batteries has gone down a lot, so now, even more than before, we will be able to offer that to residential customers at an affordable price.

“What is becoming more available now are systems called micro-inverters, and these allow you to install a very simple rooftop system which is cheaper, faster to install and is more appropriate for affordable housing developments, and so on.”

Batteries Expensive

But Small countered that with solar and wind on average only available for 20 and 35 per cent of the day, respectively, and the cost of buying and replacing batteries being expensive, it might be cheaper for customers to get their power from the JPS grid when RE is not available.

“It (solar) is a good thing to have, but it cannot be operated in isolation, and that is something a lot of people in the solar business not telling their customers,” said Small.

“Because even if you get a panel or a wind turbine and you get the battery, you are going to need a grid to at least charge up that battery for the 80 per cent of the time you are without solar or the 65 per cent of the time you are without wind.

“Plus, you will have to be replacing the battery every two to three years for full value, and batteries cost much more than solar panels.”

Small said the JPS is focused on supplying power as cheaply as possible so persons can take the cheap power from the grid rather than go buy a battery and use the solar power and the wind when it is available.

With Jamaica being a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the utilisation of more RE forms part of the National Energy Policy which sees the country aiming to have 30 per cent RE penetration by 2030.

The country is currently at approximately 10 per cent of the quota, with roughly 300 net billing customers (those who have solar systems which allows them to consume energy and sell surplus) and around 10 larger customers.

Gleaner

KellyTomblinL20120417RB

For full article with audio clips click here

President of the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, Kelly Tomblin, is rejecting claims that she’s using scare tactics to keep businesses from turning to renewable sources of energy.

In an interview yesterday on Nationwide This Morning, Chief Executive Officer of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, accused JPS of using ‘scare tactics’.

This was in response to comments attributed to Ms. Tomblin in a recent Gleaner report that the company could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave the grid.

But speaking with Nationwide News yesterday, Ms. Tomblin sought to clarify the comments she made to the Gleaner newspaper.

She’s insisting she’s not using a scare tactics.

Ms. Tomblin says she would prefer companies stay on the power grid.

This, as the intermittent use of the grid is more of a burden on JPS than if a company were to be removed completely.

And, Ms. Tomblin says the JPS doesn’t build LNG plants contrary to Mr Robinson’s claim.

He’d said the light and power company has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.

She’s also refuting his claim that JPS’s rates are going up.

Nationwide

Solar Plant

For full article with interview  clips click here

CEO of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, says the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, is using scare tactics to keep businesses from leaving the grid and turning to alternative energy.

In a recent interview with the Gleaner newspaper, JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin was quoted as saying that it could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave their grid.

Robinson says could mitigate any losses from clients who’ve switched to alternative energy by running a more efficient operation and doing more to combat theft.

He says JPS is already doing a lot to diversify its own fuel sources to keep energy costs down.

And, Robinson is also criticizing the power company for being hypocritical.

He claims JPS has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.

Nationwide

A field of photovoltaic solar panels providing alternative to the supply from the JPS.

With many local entities turning to solar systems or other renewable systems to reduce their reliance on more expensive energy supplied by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), there is a another indication that persons who remain on the JPS grid could face the consequences.

“We all should be concerned and thoughtful. You don’t want everybody who can afford solar on their roof going off the grid because you would still have to pay for the grid,” CEO of the JPS, Kelly Tomblin, told The Sunday Gleaner during a recent interview.

“How do we take care of a particular company so that we also take care of the whole? How do we find a way to make it affordable for everybody and don’t just let people cherry-pick off the grid?” added Tomblin.

There is no official registry of the amount of renewable energy being utilised on the island, but it is estimated that approximately 35 megawatts of renewable energy has been installed between residential and business customers in recent years.

The target is to have 20 per cent of the country’s energy need being supplied by renewable sources by 2018, moving to 30 per cent by 2030.

Energy Sales

The JPS has recorded four years of decline in energy sales from 2010 to 2014, but has seen a turnaround in the last two years with a two per cent increase in 2015 and a four per cent increase in 2016.

“This could be due to the fact that the cost of electricity to customers has dropped by about 25 per cent over that time (usage tends to increase when the price of electricity is lower),” the JPS said in an emailed response to questions from our news team.

According to the JPS, while it has not yet seen any revenue fallout from renewable energy installations, it recognises “that energy sales could have been higher if some customers had not gone off the grid”.

If more paying customers move to renewables and leave the JPS, the company will be selling to a smaller group of paying customers and could be forced to find alternative ways to remain profitable, which could see electricity cost increase for some customers.

If Top Customers Left

Tomblin admitted that if the company’s top 50 customers were all to leave the grid it would cause a serious problem, but she argued that she is confident that these companies are cognisant of their responsibility to the Jamaican people.

“I am really encouraged, having been in meetings with our top 50 customers, and we are having a lot of meetings with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the Energy Committee to say how we can balance personal and country interest,” said Tomblin.

“People who are adding solar are doing so during the day; that is not when Jamaica has a peak. So unless they have storage we have to maintain the same power plant and the same grid, because they come on the JPS system at nights, so they still have to pay and, therefore, it is not that much of an impact to the system,” said Tomblin.

But PSOJ President Paul Scott said the decision to remain on the grid or not is one entities will have to decide based on what is best for their business.

“I am aware of some members who have not come off the grid because of the impact it might have on residential users, while other members have come off the grid,” said Scott, who is a member of the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team.

“So one must make their own economic decision based upon their own situation. Serious companies would take that (impact on residential users) into consideration. I would encourage our members to make decisions that will impact the overall competitiveness of Jamaica. Different industries have different utility requirements and therefore, you can’t generalise.”

According to Scott, the use of the grid will change over time, as PSOJ members, and the private sector as a whole, are always going to calculate the cost of energy as a significant part of their business.

Hands-on training is a key element of Wigton courses. Here (from left) Renford Smith, Marcus Grant and Alan Searchwell connect the electrical components of a solar panel at the Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, recently.

“BY BEING natural and sincere, one often can create revolutions without having sought them.”

The Wigton Wind Farm team could be drawing inspiration from these words by French fashion designer Christian Dior, as it rolls out a training programme designed to fuel interest and inspire further action on renewable energy in Jamaica.

“It is open to anybody who has an interest. It is open to the general public,” said Sanja Simmonds, engineer and training coordinator at the wind farm, which is located at Rose Hill in Manchester where they began the renewable energy training courses this year.

In January, the farm trained 20 people from across sectors — private and public, and including students as young as 19 years old — in photovoltaics.

“Once you have an interest, it just goes from there,” Simmonds noted. “(The training) is how we can stimulate that interest and have greater interest for the technologies.”

The first training course ran for three days, as will the next one looking at solar thermal energy to be held in April.

The third training course, which will focus on wind energy and hydro, will be held in July. The final one for the year will be held in November and focus on bio-energy.

Up to now, Simmonds said they had been careful to avoid over saturation, with each course having a cap of 15 participants, with provisions for no more than an additional five.

“We don’t want anyone lost. If you have too many people, you may have persons sitting around and not paying attention. What we want is for participants to be fully engaged and hands on,” he said.

“The delivery of the first course was extremely effective, based the feedback we got. The training courses are not for you to you only to come and sit down before a PowerPoint. It is 50 per cent theory and 50 per cent practical. So we had participants (from the first training course) actually doing, for example, photovoltaic installation, sizing wires, sizing panels, etc.,” Simmonds added.

The training coordinator explained further the thinking behind Wigton’s efforts.

“Previously Wigton’s tagline was ‘Making renewables a breeze’. Now our tagline is ‘securing Jamaica’s energy future’. To secure the energy future, you could do it in multiple ways. You could do it from a commercial point of view, which is what Wigton is. So we harness clean energy from the wind,” he explained.

“You could also do it from a technical standpoint, which is where we train. So we are trying to create interest in renewable energy and ensure that people have a better appreciation for it. So it is two fold — the commercial side and the technical side,” the engineer added.

The plan, he said, is to have the programme be annual.

“The courses will develop as time goes on. We didn’t want to start it five days and then people wanted three. So we started it on a minimal scale to see what the feedback would be like and the feedback was really exceptional,” Simmonds said.

“So now we will look at expanding the courses. Maybe in the future we will have five days of courses or even two weeks,” he said.

They also have their sights set on having the courses accredited.

“Currently it is just a certificate of participation (that participants receive), but as we go along, we are trying to figure out how we can get the courses certified,” Simmonds noted.

He was, however, quick to emphacise: “We are not trying to compete against the other institutions providing the training. What we are trying to do is stimulate the interested among the general public and then grow that interest.”

“When we talk about the energy policy, one of the core parts of it is to increase renewable energy penetration into the grid. If you are to do so, you have to make people aware of the type of the technologies that you are pushing,” he added.

Gleaner