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WITH ECONOMIES under threat due to climate change and prevailing high production costs, the recent Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) served as a call to urgent action to realise energy efficiency and energy sustainability within CARICOM.

Kim Osborne of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development at the Organisation of American States, said it is past time that talk be translated into action.

“There is always the challenge of maintaining a healthy balance between dialogue and implementation. Several studies and reports have noted that our region faces an ‘implementation deficit’, but I would venture to say that the region also suffers from a ‘dialogue surplus’,” she noted.

She was addressing participants at the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF), held in The Bahamas last week.

“There is a serious mismatch between meetings and results in our region. My point here is twofold: that dialogue is not an end to itself, and that dialogue that does not lead to action and to results is meaningless,” Osborne added.

At the same time, she said that energy must not be looked at in isolation, but rather in the context of sustainable development.

“In the normal course of things, energy is not provided in a vacuum. It impacts and is impacted by several factors, such as poverty, water availability, disaster risk, climate change, health, education and human resource development, human rights, and coastal and marine management,” Osborne said.

“I am proposing that to the fullest extent possible, an integrated approach should be adopted towards the goal of sustainable energy management,” she added.

For his part, Dr Devon Gardner, programme manager for energy with the CARICOM Secretariat, emphasised three things – partnership, integration and action.

“The partnerships are not just for the CSEF, but with the World Bank and the United States Government, we are able to implement the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Road Map ad Strategy (C-SERMS) platform … . Because of partnerships, we have been able to work with the member states,” he said.

UNITY MAKES SENSE

On integration, he noted: “The CARICOM secretariat is really there to serve the member states. We do what the member states require to get the job done. The CARICOM is a group of countries within the Caribbean that we want to do some things together because it makes sense for us to work together to achieve mutual and shared objectives. And the role of the secretariat is to help the member states to realise this objective.”

Added Gardner: “We believe that all that CARICOM desires – from economic development to climate resilience to social resilience to security – is underpinned by having a strong energy sector … . We see energy as a critical part of the regional integration tool.”

In the end, Gardner said there was no question of realising C-SERMS energy targets that include 47 per cent renewable power capacity by 2027 without urgent action.

A number of regional leaders – among them Dr Regilio Dodson, Minister of Natural Resources in Suriname – have noted their support for an integrated and unified approach to the energy efficiency and sustainability in the region.

“We should work together … . We have to actively promote success stories … and learn from each other and go together and try to determine what is for our region the best way forward,” he said.

“If we work together to get this going and get the cooperation between CARICOM countries going, then we will have our energy security in our own hands, ” he added.

Among the topics explored over the three days of discussions at CSEF 2017 were ‘The CARICOM Energy Policy Road Map and Strategy: Shifting the C-SERMS from Concept to Action'; ‘The Regulator Within the Integrated Resource Planning Process'; and ‘The CARICOM Energy Transition: Lessons from the Last Five Years’.

The forum also saw the meeting of regional working groups on key thematic areas, including information and knowledge management, finance, capacity building and research, as well as policy and regulations.

Gleaner

BEGINNING FEBRUARY 7, the USAID-funded Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II) project, in collaboration with the Meteorological Service of Jamaica and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority will host a series of agrometeorology farmers’ fora.

The fora are geared at equipping farmers and other stakeholders with climate-smart risk management strategies. The series will explore common terminologies used by weather experts in delivering the weather news, enabling farmers to interpret and use this information. The workshop will also feature presentations on climate outlook for the upcoming six months and how to prepare for any unexpected changes in the weather to reduce exposure of livelihoods.

“The farmers will also benefit from awareness sessions focused on the impact of climate change and variability on agri-business enterprises, the role of insurance products in the management of climate risks, and planning for climate risks at the farm or community level using the participatory integrated climate services for agriculture tool. This will be complemented by an interactive demonstration of the risk associated with disasters and early warning climate service (flooding or drought) by the MSJ,” Ja REEACH II said in a release to the media.

INSURANCE POLICY

GraceKennedy Insurance has partnered with the Ja REEACH II project to provide Livelihood Protection Policy coverage valued at $300,000 which will be presented to selected farmers during the series. The Livelihood Protection Policy offered by GK Insurance is a trigger-based insurance policy which is designed to help especially non-salary income earners to cope with severe impacts on their livelihood following extreme weather events (rain and wind).

This is the third staging of the agrometeorology fora which builds on the engagement of some 575 farmers, extension officers and other stakeholders who have participated.

The Ja REEACH II project is a four-year initiative funded by the USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA. Through a range of interventions, Ja REEACH II works with government, private sector, civil society and community- based organisations to increase awareness and application of practical actions that help Jamaicans to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Gleaner

Opposition spokesman on Mining and Energy, Phillip Paulwell, is describing as ill-advised and untimely the latest proposal by the Government to divest its 19.9 per cent stake in the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd (JPS).

Paulwell, who said that Finance and Public Service Minister Audley Shaw recently alluded to the divestment of the Government’s shares at this time, argued that the transaction would deprive the country of the opportunity to maximise the expected increase in the value of the energy company’s assets when the energy diversification and modernisation exercise is completed.

“While we recognise and appreciate the fact that the divestment would serve to broaden the ownership base of assets in the country, we urge the Government not to squander the country’s assets on the whim of expediency, but to be guided by the cost-benefit analysis of the divestment,” Paulwell insisted.

Despite the Opposition’s reservations to divest the JPS shares at this time, Paulwell recommended that every effort should be made to ensure that Jamaicans are given the opportunity to acquire the publicly held shares in the company.

The previous People’s National Party administration had taken a policy decision to divest itself of commercial assets once the opportunities arise.

In 2016, the Development Bank of Jamaica had advised that the Government was committed to selling its stake in the JPS, the island’s sole power distributor.

Gleaner

ENERGY MINISTER Andrew Wheatley has sought to quiet ongoing concerns over reports that the new Chinese owners of ALPART, Jiuguan Iron and Steel, are looking to set up a 1,000-megawatt coal plant in Jamaica to support their operations.

“Where we are right now, we have not received any application, any proposal, as it relates to a coal-fired plant at ALPART. What we know for a fact is that the new owners are rehabilitating, retrofitting the old ALPART facility,” he told The Gleaner on the sidelines of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) in The Bahamas on Tuesday.

“The plan is for them to use the traditional source of fuel – HFO – to drive that bauxite facility. We expect that facility to be up and running in another 16 to 18 months, starting to produce bauxite and employing Jamaicans,” he added.

“I don’t want to speak for them, but I know they are exploring other sources of energy, separate and apart from coal,” Wheatley said further.

At the same time, the minister suggested that this ministry would not readily entertain any such application.

“The truth is that coal is a part of our energy policy, a part of that mix. But if we are to embark on such a direction, it would have to be after serious consultation. We would have to ensure that there is some technology that would, more or less, mitigate against the negative environmental impacts associated with coal in the past,” he noted.

 

CLEAN TECHNOLOGY

 

“So there is a clean-coal technology being mooted. That is something that we would have to explore. But we would never engage or embark on the use of coal – at least that capacity of producing 1,000 megawatts – without our having the necessary consultations with the different stakeholders,” he said.

News of the 1,000-megawatt plant accompanied the sale of ALPART to Jiuguan last year. The construction of such a plant would exceed Jamaica’s current generating capacity of some 800 megawatts while threatening to undermine efforts to treat with climate change, which prompted outcry from among civil society actors.

The minister’s statements on what would need to happen regarding any coal project, meanwhile, are in line with what the Council of the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals called for last August.

“We look forward to seeing the holistic analysis on the full economic costs and benefits for the chosen source of energy, including the lifetime costs of energy production, the cost of treatment of pollutant emissions and effluent, the cost of any investment or operation costs for ensuring compliance with all relevant national environmental and working standards,” the entity said.

“This analysis should include critical factors such as the economic cost of health effects and medical treatment from exposure to plant emissions and effluent on workers and communities surrounding the plant,” the council added.

Ultimately, like a number of other civil society actors, it concluded: “It is our position that a coal-fired plant is counter-productive to Jamaica’s own Vision 2030 and our other commitments on energy, sustainable development, and climate change,” it said.

“We hasten to point out that there is a cost associated with sourcing and transportation of coal from overseas; the potential impact on human health, including long-term treatment; and the cost of ensuring that all relevant national standards are met,” they added.

Gleaner

 The Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) says it has submitted an action plan to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) outlining its strategy and timelines for fixing the problems which caused the widespread power outage last year.

A total of 547,734 customers were affected by the April 17, 2016 outage which was caused by a major system failure.

The submission of the action plan by the JPS follows several directives and recommendations issued by the OUR to the company in November.

The OUR had also instructed JPS to provide it with an action plan on the implementation of all of the recommendations which should include specific timeframes for their completion and associated implementation costs.

The company will have to address its systems and training to ensure all major transmission maintenance outages are properly planned and coordinated to reduce the system exposure to security risks.

It will also have to address training of its relevant staff including managers on outage management; increase complement and improve competence of protection system staff; and implement a system for upgrading, maintain, test and management of critical equipment.

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is preparing for a battle with the Government over any attempt to review its operating licence.

The JPS was put on its guard last Friday when Government senator and chief technical adviser to the finance minister, Aubyn Hill, declared that the Andrew Holness-led administration is obliged to review the licence of the light and power company because of threats to the Jamaican economy.

Opening the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, Hill called for a review of the modified licence issued to JPS last January, because it “seems to be quite opposed to the interest of Jamaicans”.

“We have to look at that licence carefully [and] as a new Government, we’re obliged to,” Hill told his parliamentary colleagues.

But Kelly Tomblin, the president and chief executive officer of the JPS, in a quick response, rejected Hill’s reasons for questioning the changes to the licence and expressed the hope that his comments would not suggest that Holness will shred the contract.

“I’m sure, similar to how the Government has continued on the framework for fuel diversity, that this Government certainly wouldn’t suggest that a licence negotiated in good faith, in which the JPS has made investments, would be negated by a subsequent government,” said Tomblin.

“Surely, he’s (Hill) not suggesting that,” added Tomblin.

In his Senate presentation, Hill argued that he was making the call from his position as a senator.

“Because I may have some influence on policy, I do not lose my right as a senator to bring up independent issues. My position is quite different from a recommendation, and if I gave a recommendation I probably would not be speaking on it publicly,” said Hill.

The international banker argued that the replacement of the price cap regime with the revenue cap in the licence “could dampen economic growth” because JPS’s growth is no longer tied to that of the economy.

“A good argument can be made that the revenue cap approach blunts any incentive on JPS’s part to support the expansion of renewable sources of energy or to improve efficiencies in their current business,” said Hill, who is the chairman of Innovative Renewable Energy & Electronics Limited.

He said giving the JPS the right of first refusal to replace generating plants due for retirement entrenches the company’s near-monopoly and is inconsistent with international standards and Jamaica’s national energy policy.

‘Inaccurate Conclusions’

Tomblin rejected those claims, arguing that Hill was making “inaccurate conclusions”.

“We negotiated with the Government for our licence amendments that we believe serve the country. We have about 31 guaranteed standards that are monitored by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).

“Our overriding goal is to support economic growth. This (Hill’s arguments) requires a more fulsome discussion with the utility,” said Tomblin.

Hill’s call came days after the OUR announced new regulation which should give it more power to monitor the operations of the JPS and other entities which generate or supply electricity.

The regulation will govern the operational standards and established procedures for handling the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and dispatch of electricity across the island.

According to the OUR, the regulation adopts five grid codes, which are generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and dispatch.

“The codes, which were finalised in August 2016, have been developed in parallel, and are designed to be used in conjunction with each other,” said the OUR.