Author: jrobinson

This 2016 photo shows erosion along the beach in Annotto Bay, St Mary, due to high waves.

A warning has been issued to governments across the Caribbean, including Jamaica, to do more to make countries resilient to climate change as there is a price to pay if nothing is done.

According to a report commissioned by the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme, the Caribbean is “in the front line” and at greater risk from more severe impacts than many other parts of the world because of its geographic location as most regional states are smaller islands where people live close to and depend on the sea.

The Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card 2017, which was conducted by scientists and researchers, said more intense storms, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, higher temperatures, and ocean acidification are major threats to all regional economies and pose a danger to lives as well, both directly and indirectly.

“As the seas, reefs and coasts on which all Caribbean people depend are under threat, much more needs to be done to protect these resources, and the authors recommend building more resilient environments to prepare for, and protect against, climate change,” the report noted.

It has recommended developing a regional network of marine protected areas designed to future-proof marine biodiversity against climate change and stabilise shorelines to preserve natural barriers such as mangroves, salt marshes, and coral reefs.

STRONG HURRICANES TO INCREASE

The scientists warn that while the overall frequency of Atlantic storms may decrease, the strongest hurricanes are likely to increase. Global average sea level is projected to rise by a further 10-32 inches over the coming century a devastating amount for a country as low-lying as Cayman, where it could be even worse.

“In the northern Caribbean, sea-level rise could be 25 per cent higher than the global average due to other physical factors affecting land elevation,” the report states. “This projected rise in sea level and severe storms is likely to increase the risk of storm-surge events for Caribbean states, which will further exacerbate risks to biodiversity, settlements and infrastructure.”

The report also zeroed in on some countries in the region including Jamaica, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and St Lucia.

Where fishing is concerned, the researchers noted that if there is no action – permanent fishing camps on low lying offshore cays may be completely submerged by future sea level rise, and these are particularly vulnerable during extreme-weather events.

Gleaner

Kelly Tomblin, who has been the face of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) since she joined the light and power company as president and chief executive officer in 2012, is on her way out of the company, and heading to take up the CEO position at the United States-based power company, INTREN, effective July 10.

Tomblin will take over the day-to-day running of the firm from Loretta Rosenmayer, the firm’s founder and current CEO, who will now chair the board of what has become one of the leading utility contractors in North America.

Up to press time, Tomblin was off the island and unavailable for a comment. However, 4-traders.com, a reputable international stock market and financial news website, said Tomblin had confirmed to them that she is to be the new CEO at INTREN.

“INTREN would not be what it is today without Loretta’s vision, leadership and unwavering commitment to high standards and values,” Tomblin was quoted by the website as saying. “I am honoured to lead the INTREN team and continue the progress evolving before me.”

According to reports, Tomblin was selected from a competitive selection process from a strong field of candidates.

“She is a highly impressive and respected executive known for her ability to build diverse, meaningful cultures in a collaborative leadership style. As a recipient of the prestigious 2016 Platt’s Global Energy CEO of the Year Award, Kelly topped an impressive list of finalists leading companies in the United States and around the world,” the website stated.

ENERGY SAVING PROJECTS

During her time at JPS, Tomblin introduced several energy saving projects, as well as the use of liquefied natural gas in the country’s energy mix, even as she guided the light and power company through a profound transformation.

“This evolution comes at an extraordinary time for INTREN,” a report quoted Rosenmayer as saying. “Our momentum is strong, and our management team and employees have built an exceptional company that is one of the most trusted and respected in the industry. I’m confident Kelly is ideally positioned for her new role to continue our growth.”

INTREN has been an innovative solution partner, dedicated to building and maintaining the infrastructure of the energy industry for more than 25 years, and has served many of the nation’s foremost utility companies, private contractors and developers, and municipalities and cooperatives.

Gleaner

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The Tesla solar roof is a wonderful innovative technology that will revolutionize the solar industry especially as more companies start to produce their own solar roofs. Tesla launched their solar roof with combined Powerwall battery system this week and everyone got very excited. But how excited should we be in Jamaica?

Here at Solar Buzz we get a lot of calls regarding new technology and the solar roof has been on people’s minds for 7 months since the initial announcement. My response to prospective solar clients would be to not get too excited about owning a solar roof in Jamaica anytime soon, for a few reasons:

  • Not available outside USA initially: If you go to the Tesla Solar Roof page there is a calculator. It will predict the cost of the roof but this calculator only works for US addresses. As with the Tesla Powerwall battery system, which launched over 2 years ago, demand will be high and availability will be limited to the USA until all the kinks are worked out. I have yet to come across a Tesla Powerwall battery system in Jamaica so I would not look for a solar roof in Jamaica for a while.
  • New technology is expensive: The solar roof is very new therefore the price is going to be very high. On the Tesla calculator I typed in a Florida address and put the house size at 2,000sf, the costing is below:

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A 2,000sf roof would cost J$10,500,000 before shipping and is estimated to offset 70% of your electricity bill. Florida has a solar tax credit but Jamaica has much higher energy costs so let’s say these even out for simplicity. A rough payback of this roof in Jamaica would be about 20yrs which puts us back to the early days of solar when regular panels were expensive at US$2/watt compared to US$0.50/watt now. Solar did not sell in those early days because the payback was too long. Actually solar is very cheap now and the solar market still struggles in Jamaica! This is mostly due to the lack of and a tedious financing process in Jamaica but that’s a whole different thesis.

  • The Tesla calculator assumes the home would only need one Powerwall battery bank which produces 14kWh. For a home with a family of four, the solar system would mostly likely need at least two Powerwall battery banks to achieve 100% offset, so add another US$7,000 to the cost.

This assessment is not to discourage anyone towards the solar roof as eventually all roofs will be made of solar tiles. However until that time conventional solar systems are at their most inexpensive levels of all time. A homeowner could buy a new roof and install a traditional solar system to offset 100% of electricity costs and payback for both in half the time of a Tesla solar roof right now. Eventually this will change but at this moment in time do not bank on a solar roof being available in Jamaica or feasible for many years to come. The time you spend waiting  on the Tesla solar roof in Jamaica you could have bought a traditional solar system, a new roof and paid off both through your energy savings.

Solar Buzz Jamaica CEO-Jason Robinson

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

Electric car maker Tesla has added another product to its line-up: Solar roof tiles.

As of Wednesday, customers worldwide could order a solar roof on Tesla’s website. Installations will begin next month in the United States, starting with California. Installations outside the US will begin next year, the company said.

The glass tiles were unveiled by Tesla last fall just before the company merged with solar panel maker SolarCity Corp. They’re designed to look like a traditional roof, with options that replicate slate or terracotta tiles. The solar tiles contain photovoltaic cells that are invisible from the street.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said one of the drawbacks to home solar installations has been the solar panels themselves: They’re often awkward, shiny and ugly. Buyers will want Tesla’s roof, he said, because it looks as good or better than a normal roof.

“When you have this installed on your house, you’ll have the best roof in the neighbourhood. The aesthetics are that good,” Musk said in a conference call with media.

The roof is guaranteed for the life of the home, which is longer than the 20-year lifespan for a typical, non-solar roof, Musk said. It has gone through the same hail, fire and wind testing that normal roofs endure.

Tesla’s website includes a calculator where potential buyers can estimate the cost of a solar roof based on the size of their home, the amount of sunlight their neighbourhood receives and federal tax credits. They can also put down a refundable US$1,000 deposit to reserve a place in line.

Tesla said the solar tiles cost US$42 per square foot to install, making them far more costly than slate, which costs around US$17 per square foot, or asphalt, which costs around US$5. But homes would only need between 30 and 40 per cent of their roof tiles to be solar; the rest would be Tesla’s cheaper non-solar tiles which would blend in with the solar ones.

Save On Installation

It would cost US$69,100 to install a solar roof with 40-percent solar tiles on a 2,600-square-foot roof in suburban Detroit, according to Tesla’s website. That includes a US$7,000 Tesla Powerwall, a battery unit that stores the energy from the solar panels and powers the home. The roof would be eligible for a US$15,500 federal tax credit and would generate an estimated US$62,100 in electricity over 30 years. Over that time period, Tesla estimates, the homeowner would save US$8,500.

Tesla said the typical homeowner can expect to pay US$21.85 per square foot for a Tesla solar roof. The cost can be rolled into the homeowner’s mortgage payments and paid for over time, the company said.

Musk wouldn’t say how many orders the company expects to get this year. He expects the initial ramp-up to be slow.

“It will be very difficult and it will take a long time, and there will be some stumbles along the way. But it’s the only sensible vision of the future,” Musk said.

Palo Alto, California-based Tesla Inc is making the solar tiles at its Fremont, California, factory initially. But eventually all production will move to a joint Tesla and Panasonic Corp factory in Buffalo, New York. Panasonic makes the photo-voltaic cells used in the solar tiles.

Tesla said it will be installing equipment in the Buffalo factory over the next few months.

Gleaner

 

Dr Orville Grey (right) in action at the international negotiating table

JAMAICA CONTINUES to occupy positions of influence in the global architecture designed to work in the interest of climate change security for all, and in particular developing countries.

Just over a month ago, Dr Orville Grey, senior technical officer responsible for adaptation in the Climate Change Division, was elected co-chair of the Executive Committee (Excom) of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM).

He, along with Monika Antosik of Poland, was elected at the fifth meeting of the Excom, held in Bonn, Germany, between March 21 and 24.

The WIM was established at the 19th meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Warsaw in 2013.

Its mandate is “to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”, according to the UNFCCC website.

Its specific functions include:

– Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts;

– Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders; and

– Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

Clifford Mahlung, a meteorologist and seasoned climate change negotiator, representing small-island developing states, has been appointed co-chair of the Adaptation Committee.

The Adaptation Committee was established in 2010, as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework “to promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation in a coherent manner under the Convention”.

Its functions include:

– Providing technical support and guidance to the parties to the UNFCCC and sharing relevant information, knowledge, experience and good practices;

– Promoting synergy and strengthening engagement with national, regional and international organisations, centres and networks; and

– Considering information communicated by parties on their monitoring and review of adaptation actions, support provided and received.

“Jamaica is doing its part to ensure that the bodies of the convention and now the Paris Agreement will work to the full benefit of the parties and that we have our interest being represented at the highest level,” Mahlung told The Gleaner.

Added Grey: “It continues to show Jamaica as a leader on important issues. In this context, it is something related to climate change and provides us with an opportunity to shape what is happening in that debate and gives first-hand options to include something from loss and damage into our own national policies.”

Neither would take any personal credit for their appointments.

“It shows the confidence that has been placed in me by my developing country colleagues, in particular the members of the SIDS, who I represent, and the developing countries on the whole who appointed me to be elected as their co-chair,” said Mahlung, whose appointment also became effective in March.

Grey indicated that his new role is indicative of “the confidence of SIDS in championing the case of something that is critical to our future, which is the impact of loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change”.

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IDB Lead Investment Officer Stefan Wright speaks at the Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said it would consider financing projects for waste to energy in Jamaica, but cautioned that the cost of doing so would have to be around US$0.12 per kilowatt hour for it to make sense to consumers.

“We could finance waste to energy,” but “at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to the cost. I think that’s a key component which I don’t know if it has been fully analysed,” said lead investment officer at the IDB, Stefan Wright.

He said that if solar energy was currently being produced at US$0.12/kWh,”it makes no sense financing waste-to-energy at US$0.20/kWh because JPS [Jamaica Public Service Company] won’t buy that.”

Renewable energy is a focus of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the private-sector arm of the IDB which last year reorganised three of its four private-sector windows specifically to be more strategic, align with the IDB’s country strategy and become more effective in terms of how the Bank deploys private sector resources, Wright told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday.

“We are working with entities in Jamaica now to finance renewable energy projects,” said Wright, noting that Jamaica has done a good job in bringing more renewable energy on the grid and reducing the 90 per cent oil bill, “and we are very much interested in partnering with those entities who want financing”.

Referring to Jamaica’s main garbage-disposal sites, including the Riverton dump in Kingston, Wright said it would be good to be able to use those resources in a more environmentally friendly way, “but at the end of the day it must make sense for consumers”.

He also pointed to the Government’s efforts, announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness with the formation of an enterprise team in October last year, to manage the State’s waste-to-energy programme, contracting out of solid-waste management and collection and divestment of the Riverton City landfill.

At that time, Holness was quoted as saying that the Government had received more than 30 expressions of interests to either bid on the waste-to-energy programme or to collect solid waste or both.

“We stand ready to finance projects which come out of that,” said the investment officer, noting that after the tender process is completed, entities wishing to invest in the facility would seek financing from the IDB to make the business a reality.

Key Requirements

However, he pointed out that one of the key requirements is that such entities engaging in such energy supply programmes must obtain power purchase agreements from the JPS.

“So we are certainly willing to help to participate in that,” he said. “We will finance any sustainable project which is helping to generate economic growth,” he added, noting that the IDB was offering loans between US$5 million and US$200 million per project, “and we don’t have any country limits now in terms of what we can finance”.

Wright said “we are looking at a number of projects and renewable energy and waste energy is something that we would certainly consider.”

General manager for the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department, Therese Turner-Jones, who also participated in the forum, said she has been to a series of renewable-energy conferences where private-sector interests offer various solutions, “and they look at the Caribbean as being ripe for investment because we’ve done so little”.

Comparing Jamaica with Hawaii, where the goal is 100 per cent renewables, Turner-Jones, noted that the US state is “almost there”.

“So it’s possible (for Jamaica) to do it. The technology exists,” she added.

JPS, which controls power distribution, is now reporting that renewables should account for around 12 per cent of its electricity production this year. Jamaica is aiming for a mix of 30 per cent by 2030.

Gleaner

Supporters gather to listen to speakers after marching in support of science, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Pullman, Wash. People around the globe have turned out in huge numbers to celebrate Earth Day and support scientific research and funding. Rallies in more than 600 cities put scientists alongside advocates of politics-free scientific pursuits.

 

Play from the local scientific community have given the nod to the recent science marches, staged globally for Earth Day 2017.

The April 22 marches, they say, have helped to draw attention to valuing research, particularly in the struggle to build resilience to climate change.

For Dr Orville Grey, who has responsibility for adaptation in the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, they also demonstrate the shift in the modus operandi of scientists who now increasingly engage with policymakers and other stakeholders on their work.

“We have seen a time when scientists only spoke to scientists. There is now dialogue between scientists and policymakers, including politicians. We look at the scientific reports coming out and one of the things you recognise is that the volumes coming out now include a summary for policymakers,” said the man whose PhD is in environmental biology with a focus on climate change.

“There is a need to bridge the gap between the scientists and policymakers, including politicians, to ensure there is greater awareness and understanding and that the policies that are being presented are based on the best available science and as such that decisions are informed,” added the University of the West Indies and Northern Caribbean University part-time lecturer.

Professor Michael Taylor, head of the Mona Climate Studies Group Mona, said simply: “They were a good thing to bring attention to science and its importance in development.”

Meteorologist and long-time climate change negotiator for Jamaica Clifford Mahlung said the marches would perhaps have been especially instructive for the United States.

“The whole notion of climate change is based on scientific evidence. There were large turnouts in the US and I think that is where the message should be sent,” he told The Gleaner.

The Guardian, in an Earth Day-published report on the marches, reveals that they had seen the participation of “climate researchers, oceanographers, bird watchers and other supporters of science” from around the world whose intent was “to bolster scientists’ increasingly precarious status with politicians”.

SCIENCE CRITICAL

On that list of politicians is US President Donald Trump, whose Earth Day message nonetheless declared support for science.

“Rigorous science is critical to my Administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” he said in the statement published on the White House website.

“My Administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate,” he added.

The president’s statement comes in the wake of his executive order, signed in March, which rolls back a number of policies that had been put in place by former president Barack Obama to counter climate change. They reportedly include the Clean Power Plan and the repeal of guidance for factoring climate change into National Environmental Policy Act reviews.

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JAMAICA’S Professor Michael Taylor has made the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team, tasked to deliver what is a vital report for the Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS), in the fight against global climate change.

Taylor was invited to serve as one of three coordinating lead authors for the third chapter of a special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius as a global greenhouse gas emissions target.

The IPCC was mandated to produce that report, largely through lobby efforts led over years by SIDS, in the race to curtail emissions that fuel the changing climate that could devastate them.

“Chapter three merges what happens with the physical impacts of climate change, like changes in temperature, rainfall, and so on, with the impacts on ecosystems, natural systems and on human beings,” Taylor, a celebrated local physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

“It is actually the first time they are merging those two things in one chapter. Normally, it would be Working Group I (WGI) looking at the physical side and WGII on the physical impact. Chapter three now will look at both the scientific basis for 1.5 and what are the impacts on managed systems as well as human beings,” he added.

Taylor is joined by two other coordinating lead authors and a team of 20 lead authors to deliver that chapter.

“We will also coop contributing authors with special expertise as needed to lead the authorship of that chapter,” noted the head of the Physics Department at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Taylor’s research interests include understanding and quantifying the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to climate change.

Quizzed as to his feeling on being asked to serve, the scientist said: “It is a real honour; I appreciate the honour.

“It is not just an honour for me personally, but also for Caribbean science that it is being recognised in such a way. But it is an overwhelming task that is being asked so I also feel extremely overwhelmed but extremely grateful for the recognition,” he added.

 

GLOBAL RESPONSE

 

The historic Paris Agreement, which charts the course for the global response to climate change, looks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and pursue “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 inclusion of 1.5 was hard-fought-for by Caribbean and other SIDS aided by the regional campaign dubbed “1.5 To Stay Alive”.

The campaign run primarily in the lead-up to and during the 2015 climate talks in Paris where the agreement was adopted involved regional players such as the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, communication NGO Panos Caribbean, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Saint Lucia Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Regional Council of Martinique, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

 

SPECIAL INTEREST

 

Among other things, it saw the establishment of a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges all the while calling for the holding of temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A theme song the collaborative effort of Caribbean artistes, including Panos’ Voices for Climate Change Education’s singer Aaron Silk was also released.

“The 1.5 is a kind of threshold of viability for small islands going into the future. So this report, I think, the small islands have a special interest in because it will be the report that evaluates whether the case they are making is a good case,” Taylor said of the review work to be done in the coming months.

“And the case they are making is not just for them, but a global case. This is the report that is kind of the backbone of the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement,” he added.

Nobel laureate Professor Anthony Chen, who was recognised for his own contributions to climate research through the IPCC, had high praise for Taylor.

“Professor Taylor is an excellent person to lead the project and I have every confidence in him,” said Chen, a mentor to the professor, whom he taught at university and who succeeded him as head of the Climate Studies Group Mona.

“I was very glad for him. He had asked me what I thought and I told him, ‘go for it’. It puts the Caribbean on the map that they should be for the 1.5 project. This is sort of a late registration of that fact,” he added.

Gleaner

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.

Gleaner