Malvern, St Elizabeth — Eighteen months after ground was broken, the 36.3-megawatt wind farm run by BMR Jamaica Wind at Potsdam, Malvern, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, was formally commissioned in mid-August.
Priced at US$89.9 million, the wind project, located across the road from another wind farm run by light and power company Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), is being described as the single largest investment in St Elizabeth since construction of the Alpart alumina plant at Nain in the late 1960s.
The BMR project includes eleven wind turbines, which will provide energy to JPS’s national grid at US12.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.
BMR Jamaica Wind is a subsidiary of US-based BMR Energy. Guests at the recent formal commissioning were told that billionaire British investor, Sir Richard Branson — who turned up for the commissioning — was in the process of acquiring BMR through his wide- ranging and far-flung Virgin Group.
Branson, who triggered laughter by ripping up and throwing away what he said were his speaking notes, told his audience that his motive for the acquisition was to promote a clean energy revolution.
“I decided recently that we needed to get one or two core (clean energy) companies under our belt so that we can actually get out there and speed up this revolution …” he said.
“ We were delighted to acquire BMR and we will be out there trying to hustle and bustle governments all over the Caribbean and other countries to hurry up towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Personally, I don’t need to make money out of it, if it makes a bit of money, fine; if it doesn’t, fine. I just want to get the wind out there get the solar out there, … be powered by sun, wind, sea… a green energy revolution and bring the cost of energy down for everybody; get rid of the dangers of coal and oil and the dirty energies that we are using today… ” said Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.
Funding for the BMR project in Malvern was sourced through a package including a US$42-million loan from the US quasi-government investment agency Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which pushes US overseas investment globally; US$10 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which promotes private sector development; US$10 million from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Programme and equity investment of US$26.9 million from BMR Energy.
Jamaica’s energy minister Andrew Wheatley said the BMR wind farm formed part of the government’s drive to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce the current annual oil bill of about US$2 billion. Ninety-two per cent of Jamaica’s energy needs are currently met by oil imports, he said.
The project was in line with the target of 30 per cent renewables in the national energy mix by 2030, as stated in the National Energy Policy, and in keeping with Vision 2030 Jamaica, the minister said.
“Projects like BMR continue to establish Jamaica as a clear renewables market leader within the Caribbean. By the end of this year, we would have added 80 MW of renewable energy to the national grid, through Wigton III (a wind farm at Rose Hill in southern Manchester), Content Solar (solar plant in Clarendon), and this facility,” Wheatley said.
Bruce Levy, president of BMR Energy, said the company had plans to expand the wind farm at Malvern by an additional three wind turbines. Small farmers would co-exist with the energy-generating operations, he said.
JMMB Group Limited will spend US$420,000 ($53 million) on a solar energy system to power various offices across Jamaica this year.
The project forms part of a wider move by JMMB to reduce its carbon footprint.
“We plan to implement this on a location-by-location basis, with the first implementation taking place at one of our locations in Kingston, in the coming months. The cost is as stated, US$420,000,” the financial conglomerate told the Financial Gleaner.
JMMB estimates the project payback period will span just about five years based on expected energy savings.
The solar plant will generate up to 293,935 kilowatts, hours of electricity per year with the use of clean renewable energy.
“The system is expected to save the company US$90,000 annually, and reduce oil energy dependency by 34 per cent,” JMMB said in its newly released annual report for year ending March 2016.
Roughly three years ago, JMMB embarked on a company-wide initiative coined ‘Go Green’, with one of the primary objectives to change the group’s energy practices in a way that was more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient.
“This investment in a grid-tied solar system is just another step in the direction of making us even more efficient at how we use energy,” the company said via email.
A grid-tied solar system is one where the system itself is tied to the external electricity grid, as opposed to batteries.
“In other words, the system uses the sun to generate our electricity needs, with any unused electricity going back to the external grid, as opposed to being stored in batteries,” said JMMB.
JMMB expects the project to expand over time through exploration of other renewable resources to all JMMB Group locations, where possible.
JMMB Group made $2.3 billion profit off $10.42 billion of net revenue in FY2016.
KINGSTON, Jamaica –The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, & Fisheries (MICAF) has described Honey Bun’s newly-installed solar-energy system as a positive development for growth, job creation, and competitiveness.
Speaking on behalf of Minister Karl Samuda on Friday, at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the system at Retirement Road, Kingston, Director General in the ministry, Vivian Brown, noted that the first phase of the project, with an investment of US$250,000, has already yielded a 14 per cent decrease in the company’s electricity bill.
He pointed out that lower energy prices using solar energy will not only lower the costs of individual manufacturing operations, “but taken on a wider scale, will also reduce expenses for consumers and businesses, while increasing disposable income that can be spent in other ways”.
Brown stated that the high cost of energy has for a long time been placing a strain on the Jamaican economy, and encouraged other Jamaican manufacturers to use solar energy to reduce their costs.
He noted that more Jamaican manufacturers and householders are moving towards the use of solar energy, and that this is not just a Jamaican trend. Globally, he said, there is growing awareness that increased deployment of renewable energy is critical, not just for addressing climate change, but also for creating new economic opportunities.
“As a large user of electricity, Honey Bun has seen solar power as an effective solution to reduce costs, and I believe the steps that you are taking now will position you for a much brighter future,” Brown said.
KHAN… what we want is for them to own, as much as possible, what has to be done in each sector
From the “historical momentum in favour of brown industries” – those overly dependent on fossil fuels – to “bias in the political system towards short-run and against long-run perspectives”, the deck appears stacked against Jamaica’s efforts towards a green economy.
These factors, according to the recently published Green Economy Scoping Study, in addition to others, include IMF prescriptions that preclude Government providing tax incentives to encourage greening.
Still, the study – done with United Nations Environment Programme and European Union support – notes that in as much as these factors are barriers, they are also justification for the transformation of the economy into one typified by efficient resource management, a low-carbon footprint, and which is socially inclusive.
And it cites a variety of opportunities that can be pursued across key sectors – agriculture, construction, energy, tourism, and water – from the private sector’s demonstrated leadership in some fields to existing policies and programmes.
Elizabeth Emanuel, one of the study’s authors, said the Vision 2030 Jamaica, for which she is programme director, is one such.
“One of the benefits Jamaica has in advancing to a green economy, compared to other states, is that our own national development plan had the foresight to include the green economy as a pathway to prosperity. That plan speaks to the green economy and what a green economy would look like for Jamaica,” she told The Gleaner.
And there are some good indicators of what’s possible, Emanuel added, noting that there have been, for example, advances in the diversification of the island’s energy mix.
“We also have a society that is more aware, companies that are thinking and talking green, and all of these are creating the demand for a green economy,” she noted.
According to Emanuel, there is no question of the need to pursue the transition – whatever the constraints.
“The green economy is not just about environmental protection, but it is our planet, our people, our economy and how we marry those three to create sustainable solutions that will advance the prosperity of our land of wood and water,” she said.
Eleanor Jones, head of Environmental Solutions Limited, agreed.
“When it comes to what we need, we need to look at our resources management because that is also a part of it … . But you can’t just wave a magic wand. It has to be a structured approach with legislation and incentive … ,” she said.
“We like to talk about the IMF putting in all these strictures, and they have, and you have to watch your budget. But not everything has to cost a lot of money… . We have to encourage our suppliers to retool and encourage our consumers to manage their resources,” Jones added.
Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, said the coming months should see a re-engagement of key actors towards the green economy.
“The various sectors were consulted in the preparation stage. We now need to re-engage with these sectors at the highest levels because there have been a number of changes,” he said.
“What we want is for them to own, as much as possible, what has to be done in each sector. We expect that they will go through the list of recommendations that are there and see which ones are to be done in the short to medium term, so they can embrace those and seek to work them into their respective strategic plans. That is the approach we will take,” he added.
Among the recommendations from the study are:
• Sustainable land management and water management systems for agriculture;
• Enforce the new building code, as well as adopt codes and standards that mandate green construction practices for the construction sector; and
• Promote and incentivise renewable energy use and water use reduction, as well as planning for climate change for the tourism sector.
There is, too, the recommendation to develop more extensive sewage recycling, as well as reduce energy cost and diversify sources for the water and sewerage sector.
Holness Ricardo Makyn
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is optimistic that Jamaica will become the hub for gas in the Caribbean and promises that his government will be strategic in its efforts to diversify the country’s energy sector.
“Renewables will have to feature in a far greater way in our energy mix. The falling oil prices give us a window of opportunity to bring in new technology, to bring in new investors,” he said yesterday during an interview with Jamaican journalists at the US Caribbean Central American Energy Summit in Washington, DC. The summit was held at the Department of State.
“The emphasis (will be) on diversification in ensuring that we are the hub that will reduce our exposure to volatility,” he said.
Holness, along with other regional leaders, met with United States Vice President Joseph Biden yesterday morning for a Caribbean Heads of Delegation meeting. He said the exchange has given him some insight into how other countries in the region are using alternative energy for their electricity, water, and transportation sectors.
“I think we will have to look more closely at our transportation sector, particularly the JUTC (Jamaican Urban Transit Company), which are fairly heavy users of oil and heavy fuel, to see how best we can get energy efficiency from diversifying their fuel use,” he said.
The prime minister noted that energy has been a burden for Jamaica for many years, but he believes that several initiatives implemented by Biden and US President Barack Obama over the years have contributed to finding solutions to the problem. Obama reinforced his administration’s commitment to assist the region with exploring clean-energy solutions when he launched the Task Force on US Caribbean and Central American Energy Security during his visit to Jamaica in April 2015. Just a few months prior to the launch of the task force, Biden hosted the first US Caribbean Central American Energy Summit.
The US has provided clean-energy finance for countries such as Jamaica through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the USAID. The US-owned BMR Energy is also currently building a 34-megawatt greenfield wind farm in St Elizabeth valued at US$90 million.
“What we have said at these seminars is that Jamaica is open for investments in the energy sector,” said Holness.
The prime minister said discussions with Biden went very well as they reviewed progress made in the local energy sector last year and discussed plans for this year. He noted that there are some imperatives that the Jamaican population would have to become aware of such as the strong global movement towards clean energy.
“What is clear is that there is great appreciation for what we have done as it relates to our regulations, making it attractive for investments in the energy sector to come to Jamaica,” he said.
Spanish firm Abengoa SA has revealed the value of the upgrade and employment prospects for the 190MW power plant project amid pre-bankruptcy filings in its home market.
“The contract for the plant, which will be powered by natural gas and cooled by seawater, is worth more than US$200 million,” said Abengoa in a release.
The engineering and renewable energy firm was selected as preferred bidder by Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), and the parties are in the process of finalising the contract for the LNG-fired power plant. JPS has said the full project cost would be closer to US$300 million.
Abengoa has about four months in which to secure deals with its creditors and restructure its debts if it is to escape full bankruptcy. JPS has said it is not ready to give up on its preferred bidder just yet, but is monitoring the situation.
Abengoa said it will be responsible for the design, engineering and construction work of the plant that will replace an existing fuel-oil facility and is expected to “create between 300 and 500 jobs during the construction phase”.
JPS wants to decommission the existing fuel-oil plant and move to a natural gas facility to create a cleaner, efficient and more reliable source of power, added Abengoa.
The more than 40-year-old Old Harbour plant remains one of the least energy efficient in the island and its upgrade would form part of the Jamaican Government’s drive to increase cleaner forms of fuel. Jamaica aims to increase renewable energy reliance to 20 per cent of the energy output within the medium term.
“The plant will use a seawater cooling system that returns the warm water without adversely impacting the environment. Abengoa’s design will use the existing infrastructure as much as possible, requiring less power and improving the overall output of the plant,” said the Spanish firm in late November, adding that the project would extend Abengoa’s experience in turnkey combined cycle projects to the Jamaican market.
The company informed that it filed for insolvency protection on November 25 before the Mercantile Courts of Seville. The company also indicated that it would continue negotiations with its creditors with the objective of reaching an agreement that ensures the company’s financial viability, “under the protection of Article 5 of the Spanish Insolvency Law”.
The company recorded a €194 million net loss attributable to its parent over nine months ending September 2015 on revenues of €4.87 billion. It holds €6.2 billion in total debt while its earnings before interest tax and amortisation totalled €1.3 billion or 4.5 times net leverage.
Abengoa’s other major combined-cycle projects include the 640MW plant in Centro Morelos, Mexico, and the 440MW combined cycle plant in Portland, Oregon, United States, currently under construction. More recently, Abengoa was awarded two combined cycle plants in Mexico – Nuevo Pemex 680MW, and Norte III, 924MW.
PARIS (Reuters) – French President Francois Hollande and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Monday launch an international solar alliance aimed at eventually bringing clean and affordable solar energy within the reach of all.
The launch will coincide with a summit of world leaders at the start of two weeks of talks on the outskirts of Paris to seek a new global deal on curbing climate change, by shifting from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.
An Indian government statement on Sunday said there were well over 100 solar-rich countries in the tropics that could be members of the International Solar Alliance to develop clean and affordable solar energy.
“Solar energy is a practical and efficient way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions,” it said.
Aware of the shadow cast by the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen summit, the last attempt to reach a global climate deal, the United Nations is placing as much weight on the efforts of individual governments as on an overarching U.N. agreement.
More than 180 nations have submitted national action plans, but they are not enough to achieve a goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times — the cap scientists say is essential to prevent the most devastating consequences of global warming.
India’s national plan focuses on solar, saying it is expected to grow significantly. The aim is to reach capacity of 100 gigawatts by 2022, to be scaled up further in the future.
Firms such as Tata Power have invested heavily in solar as a reliable source capable of delivering power to some of India’s poorest people.
POTENTIAL home owners in search of environmentally friendly surroundings have just got lucky.
Developers of what is being touted as Jamaica’s “first green residential community” last week broke ground for the construction of 114 energy-efficient homes in Greendale, St Catherine, called Green Village.
Project manager Paul Soegaard told the Jamaica Observer that the phased development will begin later this month and is expected to cost roughly $1 billion. He added that the developers are looking to employ up to 200 individuals to complete the project.
The gated community features 48 two-bedroom single-family homes, 24 two-bedroom apartments and 42 super studio apartments, spanning roughly 930, 717 and 475 square feet respectively.
Starting at $7.9 million, the complex is located a few metres before entering Spanish Town and is overlooked by the well established residential community, St Jago Heights. Amenities of the community include a swimming pool, clubhouse, BBQ and green area and a play area.
The development is a joint financing project with the National Housing Trust and the Green Village Country Club developers.
“Under a short- to medium-term housing programme developed by the NHT, some 9,000 housing solutions will be funded by the Trust over the next two years to enable thousands of families to realise their dream of owning a home,” the NHT stated in a release to the public.
The government agency hopes to boost the housing solutions available to contributors and noted that some 42 housing solutions are currently buimg built across the island. Of that number, St Catherine has a total of 11 developments including the Green Village, followed by Clarendon and Kingston and St Andrew, which each have seven developments.
“It’s driven by fundamentals,” Soegaard told the Sunday Finance. “First of all, attainable lands are not easy to find these days and this development is really the closest to Kingston. That’s the main driver.
“We were lucky enough to own these lands for a number of years, and with the demand for housing we just decided to build the first green housing development in Jamaica. There is great demand for housing coming out of the Kingston area, spilling all the way over to Old Harbour as annual surveys by the NHT indicates.
“The connection to the Green Village in Greendale, St Catherine, is by coincidence, our name is driven by best practices and building strategies, but I think they complement each other,” the project manager stated.
Green Village is designed to be energy-efficient and includes features such as solar water heaters, water and energy-reducing features for faucets and toilets. The development is also designed to take advantage of passive energy and natural light instead of purchased electricity or natural gas.
“It means that the houses are built of aerated concrete to foster cooler homes than the traditional ones and designed so that you can get a lot of sunlight without the rays passing through,” Soegaard explained.
The architectural design of the complex also provides for renewable energy-powered street lighting, Bahamas sun shades which also function as hurricane shutters and burglar bars, biodigester and reed bed sewage treatment plants which give a much higher level of treatment than septic tanks, storm water retention, grey water recycling, and xeriscaping — the practice of landscaping the common area with plants that use little to no water.
With regards to further expansion, Soegaard says there are plans underway for the development of a second phase based on sales demand.
“It’s dependent on a number of factors, but we have the option to do a phase two — though nothing is confirmed at this point,” he said.
BY KARENA BENNETT
HERO BX, one of the largest biodiesel producers in the US, is currently exploring possibilities to develop Jamaica’s first commercialscale biodiesel plant.
The firm’s representatives have been visiting the island since Jampro’s “Jamaica Investment Forum” earlier this year, and have been meeting with various government and private sector stakeholders with serious interest in confirming the project.
The plant would boost Jamaica’s renewable energy programme and would also impact a number of industries, since biodiesel uses feedstock such as waste oils from the hospitality industry and plant feedstock from the agricultural industry.
The investment would also be a significant source of employment and could empower the Government to benefit from the sale of biodiesel produced here on the island, which would operate as the hub of HERO BX’s Caribbean operations.
HERO BX produces 50 million gallons of fuel per year from multiple raw materials and has achieved the highest quality accreditation available. The company is investigating expanding into the Caribbean region, as the growing global renewable energy market is estimated to grow to US$614.92 billion by the end of 2015.
Glen F Garth, executive vice-president of US consulting firm Garth Solutions Inc, and representative of HERO BX, stated that Jamaica has received top billing for the development of the plant due to the country’s strategic location, amongst other factors.
“The location of Jamaica strategically in the Caribbean basin, the access to a quality, educated labour force, the access to all of the benefits that are available due to commitments made by the Jamaican government to encourage foreign direct investment, are all factors.
Those attributes are what first attracted our attention and have further strengthened our interest in establishing a biodiesel hub in Jamaica.” Garth also commended the country’s strong national energy policy and renewable energy sub-policy, saying those components were seen as favourable, and increased the company’s interest in Jamaica.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton noted that Jamaica continues to receive more investment interest.
“This robust investment climate and investment in a variety of sectors in the economy is the result of work across Government to improve the business environment, facilitate economic growth and create opportunities for job creation,” Hylton said.
Jampro President Diane Edwards is pleased that the country’s strides to promote its renewable energy strategy have been bearing fruit. She stated that following on the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce’s mandate, the agency has been campaigning for more investments in newer sectors to diversify Jamaica’s economy.
“We are seeing more interest in sectors such as energy and technology as the Government makes moves to improve the business atmosphere and the country’s readiness for investments. Jampro will monitor the progress of this and other projects closely as we try to bring more significant, sustainable investments to Jamaica,” she said.
CO-EXECUTIVE director of The Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), Dr Christopher Tufton, will this week travel to Barbados to chair a workshop on Barbados’ country report on renewable energy options at the Caribbean Development Bank Conference Centre in St Michael.
With funding from the European Union (EU) under its Energy Facility II programme, CaPRI has been implementing the ‘Frameworks, Policies and Instruments for Mobilising Renewable Energy in the Caribbean’ project over the past two and a half years.
The overall objective of the project is to empower both the public and private sectors and other energy consumers in the Caribbean to make informed decisions on renewable energy investments, and to provide input to policymaking in order to create an enabling environment to accelerate such investment.
The workshop will present the country report which included analyses of renewable energy technology options as well as a number of tools aimed at the public and private sector, including:
*Technology assessment tool — an online calculator which will enable Caribbean businesses and energy consumers to size and cost renewable energy systems to meet their energy needs;
* Renewable energy financing database — a searchable database of local and international financing schemes to allow energy consumers, businesses and project developers to identify appropriate financing for their renewable energy projects, large and small;
* Policies and incentives database — a complete database of incentives available for renewable energy investments in the Caribbean;
*Cost benefit analysis tool.
According to Tufton, the workshop will also include a practical session using the cost benefit tool, and an opportunity for participants to provide feedback on its usefulness. So far CaPRI has presented country reports in Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and Jamaica with Barbados and Guyana left.
This CaPRI EU programme is valued at approximately 500,000 Euros over four years and represents the most in-depth database on renewable energy in the Caribbean.
CaPRI is hopeful that this database will be used by policymakers, the private sector and the general public to increase the use of renewables in the region, Tufton said.