It’s a step in the right direction however LNG is not clean energy and will be going the way of coal plants in the not so distant future. Solar plus commercial energy storage is approaching… Jason Robinson, CEO Solar Buzz Jamaica
Ground has now been broken for the 200 megawatt cogeneration power station at Jamalco’s alumina refinery complex in Halse Hall, Clarendon.
New Fortress Energy is expected to hire 425 persons during the construction stage of the planned US$265-million natural gas facility.
The plant is to be developed in two phases of 100 megawatts per hour each.
Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony this morning, Prime Minister Andrew Holness explained the components of the project.
He said the plant should help to ensure lower costs and lower emissions and will benefit the Jamaican economy.
New Fortress will also supply a 190 megawatt gas-fired power plant in Old Harbour, St Catherine, being developed by the Jamaica Public Service Company from its marine terminal at Portland Bight.
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.
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.
Power utility boss Kelly Tomblin views Softbank’s acquisition of Fortress Investment Group, to which New Fortress Energy is affiliated, as positive for furthering plans to build out gas facilities in Jamaica,
American company New Fortress Energy is a gas supply partner to Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).
Last November, the partners celebrated the commissioning of Jamaica’s first LNG-fired plant at Bogue in Montego Bay, and they are about to start development on another gas facility in St Catherine. In both cases, New Fortress invests separately in the gas-supply infrastructure, while JPS develops the power plant.
The marine terminal and gas power plant development at Old Harbour in St Catherine is to get off the ground “in a couple of weeks,” said Tomlin, the president and CEO of JPS, on Friday.
JPS secured funding locally for its plant, while New Fortress planned to finance the project themselves with cash rather than debt, Tomlin, who noted that the acquisition by Softbank means “they will have a lot more cash”.
New Fortress did not return Gleaner calls up to press.
Last Wednesday, the two parties jointly announced a US$3.3 billion deal for Softbank of Japan to acquire New York-based Fortress Investment Group. Fortress, which is co-chaired by Pete Briger and Wes Edens, said its senior executives would remain with the company.
“I am in dialogue with Wes Eden,” said Tomblin. “I am assured that this acquisition doesn’t harm the project and that also he is excited about this deal; and so too the members on the ground who work for New Fortress,” said Tomlin.
Asked about any other implication to Jamaica, she said there would be “absolutely none”.
New Fortress plans to build and operate a liquefied natural gas marine terminal and pipeline within the Portland Bight area or close to the Goat Islands, according to the environmental report released last year.
The project will be executed through affiliate NFE South Holdings Limited. The marine terminal will feed gas to the 190MW plant that JPS will be developing at Old Harbour.
Asserting that “we must get it right”, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has urged utility regulators to take seriously their role in helping the Caribbean ease its dependence on oil and embrace technologies and renewables key to energy diversification.
The regulators’ role, he said, is linked to the creation of partnerships with investors who want returns, consumers and governments pushing for the economic development of their countries.
Holness was addressing the opening ceremony for the 14 Organisation Of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) conference at the Secrets Resorts & Spa in Montego Bay, St James.
A variety of issues are set for discussion over three days by the more than 160 regional and international experts.
However, Holness, noting the importance of energy to the region’s development and the current high levels of dependence on oil, made it clear that the issue should be at the top of the agenda.
“Energy is clearly the mission-critical frontier,” he said, pointing to the role of Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) in helping Jamaica introduce liquefied natural gas (LNG) as part of the energy mix.
“The OUR approved the funding for the conversion of the Jamaica Public Service Bogue plant to enable the move from heavy dependence on oil to diversifying to LNG. I applaud the OUR in this regard for being a strong regulator and helping to make this move a reality – to take Jamaica on this new platform. This is a great example of collaboration among Government, regulator, and utility,” Holness added.
A shipment of LNG supplies arrived in Jamaica last week Saturday, and in two weeks, is expected to be in full use.
The prime minister emphasised that regulators have to take seriously their role in helping the Caribbean Community implement the Caribbean energy policy that was approved in 2013.
That policy promotes a shift in sustainable energy through increased use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, among other things.
“OOCUR, you have your work cut out for you as not only is Jamaica focused on diversifying its energy mix, so, too, is CARICOM, and we must get it right in the region. Access to affordable energy is a necessary requirement for addressing sustainable development in the region,” Holness said.
He also argued that while there is need for partnership with all stakeholders in the provision of utilities, the providers must insist on self-regulation to ensure that standards are upheld and service delivery is at a high quality.
Earlier, Albert Gordon, chairman of OOCUR, said the conference was happening at a time when regulation was becoming more important for sustainable development.
The conference schedule has placed heavy emphasis on renewable energy and investment.
Jamaica and many other small-island states of the Caribbean are heavy importers of oil, which increases their vulnerabilities to external shocks such as sharp oil price rises. Except for Trinidad and Tobago, the only net exporter of oil and natural gas, all other Caribbean countries are net oil importers.
“For importers other than Suriname, around 87 per cent of primary energy consumed is in the form of imported petroleum products. Imports are mostly diesel fuel for electricity generation, gasolene for transportation, and liquefied petroleum gas used as cooking gas in households,” experts noted in a paper titled ‘Caribbean Energy: Macro-Related Challenges’ released in March by the International Monetary Fund.
This, they said, has led to consistently high electricity rates, which affects the competitiveness and development of CARICOM nations.
A powerful line-up of speakers will address next month’s Organisation of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) 14th annual conference in Montego Bay, St James.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is among those confirmed for the conference, set for the Secrets Resorts and Spa, under the theme, “Regulation: Creating a Spectrum of Opportunities in the Caribbean”. It will run over three days – October 26 to 28.
OOCUR, a non-profit organisation, was established in 2002 by the signatories of six utility regulators across the Caribbean, including Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR). It was established to assist in the improvement of utility regulation, facilitate understanding of regulation issues and undertake research, training and development.
Officials of the OUR will be featured heavily in the conference’s proceedings. Among those expected to participate are Albert Gordon, director general, and Joseph Matalon, the chairman. Also expected to address participants from across the Caribbean is Dr Andrew Wheatley, minister of science, energy, technology. This will be his first major conference in Jamaica as portfolio minister in the Holness administration.
The conference should be fully energised when Andrew Thorington, from the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation, presents on the electric utility-regulator relations in the Caribbean. With raging debate in recent times about the need for cleaner energy, there will be a four-member panel discussion on the issue. The participants include Dan Potash, representing the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Winston Robotham of the OUR; David Cooke of the Jamaica Public Service; and Dr Xavier Lemaire of University College, London Energy Institute.
The telecommunications regulators are expected to take centre stage on the second day of the conference. Professor Hopeton Dunn, chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, and Julian Wilkins of Caribbean Focus, Global Perspective, are among those expected to make presentations. The day will end with the meeting of the general assembly and then a meeting of OOCUR’s executive council.
Horace Chang, the minister with responsibility for water and housing, will make his presentation on the final day. His ministry has taken on much of the regulatory responsibilities for much of the country’s public bodies and agencies.
There will also be presentations from Skeeta Carasco, regulatory economist at the National Utilities Regulatory Commission, and Dwight DaCosta, deputy chief of party, USAID.
The United Nations (UN) climate change secretariat has added its voice to concerns being raised about a proposal made by China’s Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO) for the construction of a coal-fired plant in St Elizabeth.
The proposal was announced after JISCO completed a deal to acquire the Alpart alumina factory from Russian company, UC Rusal. The new Chinese owners plan to upgrade the plant with an aluminum smelter that would be powered by a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired plant.
Based on calculations provided by the CoalSwarm Global Plant Tracker, a 1,000 megawatt coal plant would produce 5.6-5.8 million tonnes of CO2 annually, increasing Jamaica’s emissions of CO2 by 79-82 per cent. Greenpeace campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta has said that the construction of the plant would violate the Paris Agreement signed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Commenting on the possible impact of the proposed coal plant on Jamaica’s UNFCCC standing, Nick Nuttall, UNFCCC spokesperson, pointed out that Jamaica had submitted an ambitious national climate action plan to the UN aimed at achieving a nearly eight per cent emission reduction by 2030. He also argued that the action plan promised commitments of greater investment in greener sources of homegrown energy such as wind and solar power rather than increases in oft-imported fossil fuels.
He argued that economic growth and job creation were not antithetical to environmental protection.
“Many complex choices will be made by governments over the years and decades to come, including with regard to energy sources, but today, there is an ever clearer consensus that overcoming poverty and growing GDP, which are critical for developing countries, can go hand in hand with generating new kinds of high-tech jobs; creating healthier, less polluted societies and a transition to a low carbon economy …,” he said in an email response to The Gleaner.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that the Government is committed to balancing its economic-growth aspirations with its environmental and international commitments.
Comments solicited from Jamaica’s mission to the UN and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were not forthcoming up to press time.
Jamaica will pay dearly in terms of the health of its people and the environment if the new owners of the Alpart bauxite facility in Nain, St Elizabeth, are allowed to build a proposed 1,000 megawatt coal-fired power plant, according to the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET).
The organisation yesterday registered its strong opposition to the proposed energy source “due to the harm to human health and climate posed by coal-fired power plants”.
“Rethink this harmful project,” Diana McCaulay, JET’s chief executive officer, appealed to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the portfolio minister for environmental issues.
She went on to argue some of the potential negative impacts of the various greenhouse gases discharged into the atmosphere by coal-fired plants, which are being phased out in developed countries.
“The pollutants from coal-fired plants that pose significant risks to human health are sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and particulate matter. Sulphur dioxide is a trigger for asthma attacks and combines with water vapour to form acid rain, which will also affect crops and soil health in the farming parish of St Elizabeth and beyond,” JET said in a release.
“Nitrogen oxides are a precursor to smog and increase the likelihood of respiratory ailments such as wheezing, coughing, colds, flu, and bronchitis.”
JET continued: “Mercury is a neurotoxin associated with irreversible IQ deficits and neurobehavioral pathologies. Particulate matter, also called PM or soot, consists of microscopically small, solid particles or liquid droplets suspended in the air. The smaller the particles, the deeper they can penetrate into the respiratory system and the more hazardous they are. There is a robust association between daily rates of human mortality and levels of particulate matter even when levels are below air-quality guidelines. Emissions of these pollutants can be reduced with modern equipment, but this type of coal plant is not cheap to build and does not produce cheap electricity.”
Mining Minister Mike Henry recently announced the sale of the old Alpart plant to the China-based Jiuquan Iron & Steel (Group) Company Limited (JISCO).
He said JISCO would be investing US$2 billion to establish an industrial zone at Nain, employing more than 3,000 people.
It was announced that the industrial zone would comprise bauxite mines, an alumina refinery, a coal-fired power plant, a local electricity network, rolling wire mills, and a range of aluminium products, among other enterprises.
The Government’s consideration of coal-fired power generation is also a matter of concern for Clifford Mahlung, project administrator at the Climate Change Division in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.
“There are other options out there I would have preferred, but they come at a cost,” he told The Gleaner yesterday.
“I’m figuring that is probably the most cost-effective way of achieving what they want from the plant. But, yes, the emissions are of concern, and so we hope that the impact will be minimised as much as possible so that we can be proud of that plant.”
However, yesterday, Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley said no application had been made for construction of a coal-fired plant in St Elizabeth.
“There was no approval or anything like that done. They need to get their facts straight before they comment,” Wheatley told The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre.
Mahlung explained that while construction and operation of a coal plant would not be a breach of climate-change conventions, it could fly in the face of Jamaica’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030.
While carbon capture and underground storage of the pollutants is an option, Jamaica does not have the technology, which would involve the use of large underground caves consistent with the size of the Green Grotto Caves in Discovery Bay, St Ann.
However, that does not seem a practical option in light of the country’s geological formation, which is mainly limestone, which is very porous.
“So it can’t keep the CO2 (carbon dioxide) underground … . Maybe they can find a way to capture that CO2 and transport it to somewhere else in the island. But all of this is at a cost to store it if that technology becomes possible, but these would add to the cost.”
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has attracted the attention of environmentalists with the exclusion of the environment and climate change portfolio as a named ministry in his Cabinet.
For environmentalists, it does not send a positive signal.
“I am disappointed to see that there is no environment ministry and no environment minister. It appears the environment will be under the Office of the Prime Minister along with a lot of different, other important national areas and I fear the environment focus will be lost in the other priorities,” said Diana McCaulay, Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET).
“I don’t think this first signal is a very positive one. It used to be that the environment portfolio moved around from ministry to ministry. Now it would it seem to have disappeared entirely,” she added.
Only last week, JET, along with a number of other entities, including the Windsor Research Centre, urged the new Prime Minister to give priority to a host of environment issues, notably:
*planning for sustainable development
*sanitation and public health
*enforcement of environmental laws
With the Jamaica Labour Party vowing in its manifesto to work with environment actors, McCaulay said she was eager to learn how the realities of the new Cabinet will gel with the identified priority areas.
“I would like to hear the details of how this would work sooner rather than later and I would like to hear a timeframe for doing some of the things stated in the manifesto,” she told The Gleaner.
Head of the South Trelawny Environment Agency Hugh Dixon was in agreement.
“I think with growth and prosperity being the sort of thrust of the new government, it seems to be an awful oversight as the issues that are at the forefront of development are predicated to a great extent on an awareness and sensitivity to [for example] climate change,” he said.
According to Dixon, the situation is will challenge civil society environment groups to gain traction in terms of the significance and value of climate change, and the environment.
“I would, with caution, say that I hope that wherever it has been dispensed to, it holds some order of priority consistent with its current standing globally and any sort of growth and development agenda,” he added.
Former Minister of Local Government and Community Development, and one-time Opposition spokesman on Environment Noel Arscott has himself questioned the rationale behind the lack of a designated ministry of environment and/or climate change.
“Jamaica and the Caribbean fall in one of the most vulnerable regions in the world affected by the vagaries of the weather. We certainly are victims of any kind of climate change impacts… So for a government not to put that on the front burner was really shortsighted…” he said.
Debbie-Ann Wright, News Editor
The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre
While the JPS has a monopoly on transmission and distribution of energy, other power producers are free to operate in Jamaica.
However, Holness said under existing legislation, producers of energy in commercial quantities must sell to the JPS, which then resells it to customers through its transmission and distribution network.
Holness argued that there is an opportunity for adverse transfer pricing, which works against the interest of the consumer in receiving competitive prices for energy.
Holness said this would allow all generators of electricity to negotiate on equal footing with the deregulated entity that controls the transmission and distribution assets formerly owned by JPS.
However, he cautions that the government should seek to dismantle through dialogue and negotiation.