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JAMAICA HAS ratified the historic international climate change deal, dubbed the Paris Agreement, which was reached in France in 2015, following years of wrangling among countries over what its provisions should be.

This, as the world looks to combat the changing climate that threatens, through sea level rise, extreme weather events, increasing temperatures and associated impacts, to erode economies and jeopardise lives.

“The instrument was signed by the minister of foreign affairs (Kamina Johnson Smith) on the 30th of March and the document sent off to New York for deposit at the United Nations,” UnaMay Gordon, principal director of the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, told The Gleaner Tuesday.

“It was deposited on the 10th of April. Therefore, for Jamaica, the agreement will enter into force on the 10th of May, 2017,” she added.

Jamaica’s ratification comes close to a year after its participation at the high-level signature ceremony in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.

The agreement, meanwhile, aims to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty” through a number of actions.

Included among them is “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

The island joins other CARICOM members with the exception of Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago who have ratified the agreement.

In responding to the perceived delay in Jamaica’s ratification, Gordon said the island had a process that needed to be gone through.

PROCEDURAL MATTERS

“Once the instrument was signed (in New York last year), then we started that process. Jamaica, unlike some other countries, had a process of consultation with the stakeholders to ensure that people understood what we were doing,” she said.

“The document went to the AG (attorney general) for the opinion of the AG. We received the opinion of the AG in October 2016. In the opinion, the AG had given an undertaking that there were only some procedural matters and that Jamaica could proceed to ratify the agreement,” she added.

“But we thought as a division that we should do the consultations. So we had focus groups, individual sit-downs and so on with stakeholders from finance, forestry, energy, etc, to find out if they were in agreement with the AG’s opinion to go ahead, and all of them had no objection,” Gordon said further.

No objections were received up to February this year and a Cabinet submission made.

“Cabinet gave the approval to ratify,” Gordon said. “We are now a full party to the agreement and have to implement at the national level.”

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With the expected April 2019 departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union, British Member of Parliament (MP) Dawn Butler has said that the relationship among the UK, Jamaica, and the wider Commonwealth now has added importance, which should result in mutual energy benefits.

The leader of a three-member delegation on a visit to the island to explore renewable energy opportunities, Butler told The Gleaner during an interview at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Wednesday that she was optimistic about connecting with small countries to maximise all available renewable sources.

“At the end of the day, what would satisfy me the most is if the delegation has found ways in which we can collaborate and build sustainable relations with Jamaica that we can carry beyond the 2030 vision, and also if a solution can be discovered to reduce our carbon emissions.”

FINDING INVESTORS

She added: “The drawback to renewable [energy] is finding investors for the initial outlay and technology. What follows is the concern of regaining the money, but in the wider scheme of things, there’s no disadvantage. Non-renewable energy is an international problem, and as global warming gets worse, the effect on islands such as [those in] the Caribbean is devastating.”

Born to two Jamaican parents and MP for Brent Central, the British constituency with the largest number of Jamaicans, Butler further disclosed that Jamaica had not been capitalising on its branding power had outside of solar energy.

“Jamaica has a worldwide brand that other people get rich from and Jamaica hardly benefits. There is other infrastructure that needs to be put in place to ensure consistency of produce and other things Jamaican, but Jamaica has the environment and the human resource to catapult itself to higher heights.”

Butler and the delegation are expected to hold talks on renewable energy with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley prior to their departure tomorrow.

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In this November 2, 2016 photo, Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley (left) and Chairman of Wigton Windfarm Duane Smith examine solar panels installed at a lab on the wind farm complex in Manchester. Jamaica received special mention in a new global energy report for its renewables programme.
The country saved around US$18 million (J$2.3 billion) in oil imports based on the 80 megawatts of renewable energy projects implemented last year, based on estimates utilising Government data.

Concurrently, the addition of the 80MW of renewable energy saved 800,000 metric tonnes in toxic carbon emissions, according to the energy ministry.

These factors allowed Jamaica to breathe cleaner air and climb in the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI). It’s unknown whether these emission savings were converted into carbon credits.

Jamaica improved six spots to 92 worldwide to become a global case study for energy diversification, according to the annual EAPI study produced by the World Economic Forum.

Trading partner and oil producer Trinidad & Tobago inched up one spot to 109, from 110 a year earlier.

The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017 indicated that Jamaica, Mexico and Uruguay, all developing countries, made strides in their energy sector performance since 2009.

In Jamaica last year, Wigton Wind Farm III added 24MW of renewable capacity, BMR Windfarm added 36.3MW, and WRB Content Solar, 20MW.

“[It resulted] in a cut in CO2 emissions of at least 800,000 metric tonnes between 2014 and 2016,” stated the energy ministry in response to Financial Gleaner queries.

“The 80.30MW of renewable energy added to the grid represents a reduction of 413,781 barrels of oil imported per year,” the ministry said via email.

Another 100MW of capacity is expected to be developed by energy investors this year, for which the bidding process is under way, it added.

Jamaica is pressing ahead with its renewable programme even as oil prices remain subdued.

The price of oil averaged US$43.33 for WTI crude and US$43.74 for Brent crude in 2016, according to the US-based Energy Information Administration statistics.

The ministry credited Jamaica’s energy successes to the aggressive implementation of the National Energy Policy – NEP 2009-2030. In ensuring that Jamaica’s energy infrastructure is as efficient, safe and competitive as possible, the NEP has within its plan of action the formulation of a new Electricity Act which provides for and promotes renewables in the energy sector, added the ministry.

The amended electricity law, in effect since 2015, was also a deliverable of the Energy Security Efficiency and Enhancement Project. That programme also oversaw the delivery of the natural gas policy and regulations, and the smart grid road map.

Jamaica appears set to surpass its initial target of 20 per cent renewables by 2030 under the restructuring of its energy mix away from crude. The ministry said the goal has already been reset higher to 30 per cent renewables by 2030.

“All things remaining equal, Jamaica will surpass the ’20 in 30′ target and we are now aiming for ’30 in 30′,” the ministry said.

The energy efficiency programme has so far saved the government $131.5 million, which translates to a 2,768-metric tonne reduction in carbon emissions.

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McCaulay: Guidelines are usually of limited importance since they are non-binding and often ignored.

Jamaica is shortly to have the benefit of a comprehensive set of guidelines for coastal management and beach restoration, as it faces down a changing climate that puts at risk coastal resources on which it is hugely dependent.

But whether the island will gain the full measure of the anticipated benefits remains to be seen.

“Guidelines are usually of limited importance since they are non-binding and often ignored. Even binding requirements are often ignored,” cautioned Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer for the Jamaica Environment Trust.

The guidelines – the work of Mott MacDonald and partners – are due out in May, following on a February 22 stakeholder consultation on the document.

According to information out of the World Bank, the guidelines, now in draft, integrate hard infrastructure measures with soft measures like relocation, replanting and beach restoration and nourishment, together with non-structural solutions, including conservation and awareness raising and education.

“The guidelines consist of recommended, non-mandatory control serving as a reference for coastal protection measures,” noted Galina Sotirova, World Bank country manager for Jamaica.

“They will be used to implement and enforce new policies and strengthen those that already exist, thus enhancing disaster risk management, climate resilience and natural resources management along Jamaica’s coastline. This will directly complement the work on building resilience in Jamaica’s coastal areas,” she added.

The recent workshop reportedly saw more than 40 representatives from the public, private, academic and civil society sectors who were able to present questions or otherwise make suggestions on the document.

However, while the guidelines look to be headed in the right direction, McCaulay said Jamaica’s problem has traditionally been “that we continue to permit development that increases our vulnerability to climate change and the degradation of the marine environment”.

DAMAGE CAUSED BY REMOVAL OF SEAGRASSES, MANGROVES

“For example, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) still gives permits for the removal of seagrasses and mangroves, building is still occurring on sand dunes, sewage treatment is still poor in too many cases, resulting in decline in coral reefs, overfishing and fishing in sanctuaries still continue, setback from the high-water mark are insufficient, etc,” the JET boss told The Gleaner.

Added McCaulay: “Although NEPA does require replanting of seagrasses and mangroves, their protection and habitat functions are lost during the many years they take to grow, and in some cases, the replanting has been badly done and unsuccessful. Beaches are maintained by complex processes. If those processes are allowed to be disrupted by development, beaches will be lost.”

The World Bank, meanwhile, is optimistic for a good outcome once the finalised guidelines are delivered.

“We envision NEPA’s adoption of guideline recommendations and incorporate them into beach licence applications. The guidelines will also be readily available to all stakeholders working in coastal areas – Government, academia, NGOs, private sector, etc – resulting in the rehabilitation of degraded coastal ecosystems and reduction of climate-related impacts on that coastal sites,” she said in her address to the workshop.

“Finally, we expect that the innovative approaches recommended in the guidelines will promote the introduction of nature-based and hybrid coastal protection measures; essential to minimising the impacts of coastal hazards to secure a healthier environment, essential for Jamaica’s coastal economy and livelihoods in the tourism and fishing industries.”

The guidelines are being developed through the ACP-EU Grant ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience in Jamaica’s Development Planning Process’ funded by the ACP-EU.

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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