Tag: China

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s outlook shows renewables will be cheaper almost everywhere in just a few years.

Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast.

That’s the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India.

The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency’s central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come.

“Costs of new energy technologies are falling in a way that it’s more a matter of when than if,” said Seb Henbest, a researcher at BNEF in London and lead author of the report.

The report also found that through 2040:

  • China and India represent the biggest markets for new power generation, drawing $4 trillion, or about 39 percent all investment in the industry.
  • The cost of offshore wind farms, until recently the most expensive mainstream renewable technology, will slide 71 percent, making turbines based at sea another competitive form of generation.
  • At least $239 billion will be invested in lithium-ion batteries, making energy storage devices a practical way to keep homes and power grids supplied efficiently and spreading the use of electric cars.
  • Natural gas will reap $804 billion, bringing 16 percent more generation capacity and making the fuel central to balancing a grid that’s increasingly dependent on power flowing from intermittent sources, like wind and solar.

BNEF’s conclusions about renewables and their impact on fossil fuels are most dramatic. Electricity from photovoltaic panels costs almost a quarter of what it did in 2009 and is likely to fall another 66 percent by 2040. Onshore wind, which has dropped 30 percent in price in the past eight years, will fall another 47 percent by the end of BNEF’s forecast horizon.

That means even in places like China and India, which are rapidly installing coal plants, solar will start providing cheaper electricity as soon as the early 2020s.

“These tipping points are all happening earlier and we just can’t deny that this technology is getting cheaper than we previously thought,” said Henbest.

Coal will be the biggest victim, with 369 gigawatts of projects standing to be cancelled, according to BNEF. That’s about the entire generation capacity of Germany and Brazil combined.

Capacity of coal will plunge even in the U.S., where President Donald Trump is seeking to stimulate fossil fuels. BNEF expects the nation’s coal-power capacity in 2040 will be about half of what it is now after older plants come offline and are replaced by cheaper and less-polluting sources such as gas and renewables.

In Europe, capacity will fall by 87 percent as environmental laws boost the cost of burning fossil fuels. BNEF expects the world’s hunger for coal to abate starting around 2026 as governments work to reduce emissions in step with promises under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Beyond the term of a president, Donald Trump can’t change the structure of the global energy sector single-handedly,” said Henbest.

All told, the growth of zero-emission energy technologies means the industry will tackle pollution faster than generally accepted. While that will slow the pace of global warming, another $5.3 trillion of investment would be needed to bring enough generation capacity to keep temperature increases by the end of the century to a manageable 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the report said.

The data suggest wind and solar are quickly becoming major sources of electricity, brushing aside perceptions that they’re too expensive to rival traditional fuels.

By 2040, wind and solar will make up almost half of the world’s installed generation capacity, up from just 12 percent now, and account for 34 percent of all the power generated, compared with 5 percent at the moment, BNEF concluded.

Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets,” said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. “Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”

Better technology has been key in boosting the industry, from the use of diamond-wire saws that more efficiently cut wafers to better cells that provide more spark from the same amount of sun. It’s also driven by economies of scale and manufacturing experience since the solar boom started more than a decade ago, giving the industry an increasing edge in the competition with fossil fuels.

The average 1 megawatt-plus ground mounted solar system will cost 73 cents a watt by 2025 compared with $1.14 now, a 36 percent drop, said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for New Energy Finance.

That’s in step with other forecasts.

  • GTM Research expects some parts of the U.S. Southwest approaching $1 a watt today, and may drop as low as 75 cents in 2021, according to its analyst MJ Shiao.
  • The U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Lab expects costs of about $1.20 a watt now declining to $1 by 2020. By 2030, current technology will squeeze out most potential savings, said Donald Chung, a senior project leader.
  • The International Energy Agency expects utility-scale generation costs to fall by another 25 percent on average in the next five years.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency anticipates a further drop of 43 percent to 65 percent for solar costs by 2025. That would bring to 84 percent the cumulative decline since 2009.

The solar supply chain is experiencing “a Wal-Mart effect” from higher volumes and lower margins, according to Sami Khoreibi, founder and chief executive officer of Enviromena Power Systems, an Abu Dhabi-based developer.

The speed at which the price of solar will drop below coal varies in each country. Places that import coal or tax polluters with a carbon price, such as Europe and Brazil, will see a crossover in the 2020s, if not before. Countries with large domestic coal reserves such as India and China will probably take longer.

Coal’s Rebuttal

Coal industry officials point out that cost comparisons involving renewables don’t take into account the need to maintain backup supplies that can work when the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow. When those other expenses are included, coal looks more economical, even around 2035, said Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association.

“All advanced economies demand full-time electricity,” Sporton said. “Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs.”

Even so, solar’s plunge in price is starting to make the technology a plausible competitor.

In China, the biggest solar market, will see costs falling below coal by 2030, according to New Energy Finance. The country has surpassed Germany as the nation with the most installed solar capacity as the government seeks to increase use to cut carbon emissions and boost home consumption of clean energy. Yet curtailment remains a problem, particularly in sunnier parts of the country as congestion on the grid forces some solar plants to switch off.

Sunbelt countries are leading the way in cutting costs, though there’s more to it than just the weather. The use of auctions to award power-purchase contracts is forcing energy companies to compete with each other to lower costs.

An August auction in Chile yielded a contract for 2.91 cents a kilowatt-hour. In September, a United Arab Emirates auction grabbed headlines with a bid of 2.42 cents a kilowatt-hour. Developers have been emboldened to submit lower bids by expectations that the cost of the technology will continue to fall.

“We’re seeing a new reality where solar is the lowest-cost source of energy, and I don’t see an end in sight in terms of the decline in costs,” said Enviromena’s Khoreibi.



China couldn’t have invented global warming as a hoax to harm U.S. competitiveness because it was Donald Trump’s Republican predecessors who started climate negotiations in the 1980s, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said.

U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush supported the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in initiating global warming talks even before China knew that negotiations to cut pollution were starting, Liu told reporters at United Nations talks on Wednesday in Marrakech, Morocco.

Ministers and government officials from almost 200 countries gathered in Marrakech this week are awaiting a decision by President-elect Trump on whether he’ll pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The tycoon tweeted in 2012that the concept of global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” China’s envoy rejected that view.

“If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the IPCC with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s,” Liu told reporters during an hour-long briefing.

Reagan’s Legacy

While Reagan died in 2004, George Schulz, who served as his secretary of state, has become one of the most prominent Republicans voicing concern about climate change and urging action.

“The potential results are catastrophic,” said Schulz, 95, in an interview with Bloomberg in 2014. “So let’s take out an insurance policy.”

Increased U.S. efforts to curb emissions through investing in new cleaner technologies and manufacturing could actually boost U.S. competitiveness, Liu countered. “That’s why I hope the Republican’s administration will continue to support this process.”

A fortnight of discussions in Marrakech were thrust into the spotlight last week by Trump’s victory. The negotiating texts being drafted by delegates and officials in north African country were suddenly overshadowed by a uncertain political future cast by Trump’s shadow over the two-decade-old process.

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped secure the Paris Agreement last year, said the majority of U.S. citizens back action on climate change and tried to assuage concern.

“No one has a right to make decisions for billions of people based solely on ideology,” he said. “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It isn’t a partisan issue for our military. It isn’t a partisan issue for our intelligence community.”

China’s President Xi Jinping underlined the importance of cooperation between the two largest economies when he spoke to Trump on Monday, said Liu, who added China will continue its fight against climate change “whatever the circumstances.”

He added that richer nations should take more responsibility than poor countries for financing the fight against climate change, in line with the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Of course we’re still expecting developed countries including the United States will continue to take the lead on mitigating climate change,” he said.


At least one local environmentalist has hit back at Sally Porteous, custos of Manchester, over her arguments urging the Government’s authorisation of a coal plant for a US multibillion-dollar investment into the Alpart alumina plant in St Elizabeth.

The Chinese-owned Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO) is planning to spend US$3 billion or J$387 billion for the upgrade of Alpart’s alumina plant in Nain and expansion into a special economic zone. More than 3,000 people are expected to be employed over the six-year period of initial investment.

However, a proposal to use a coal-fired plant has angered environmentalists, forcing the Government to come out declaring that any decision on whether to use coal is almost two years away.

Speaking last week at a Gleaner Jobs & Growth Forum in Manchester, Porteous did not hold back.

“While I listen to, and respect, the environmentalists, I sincerely hope that it is not going to be a case of crying wolf and preventing an enormous opportunity for Jamaicans to get work.

“From what I understand, they will not be using coal from China, they will be using coal from Colombia. The Alpart plant itself would be run on oil, and the coal they are going to be using for the coal plant will not emit any worst emissions than oil,” she added, noting that she recently met with Chen Chunming, the JISCO chairman.

But Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), said Porteous’ analysis is not deep enough, and so, too, is her view that coal is cleaner than oil.

“People are entitled to their views. But coal is a 19th-Century technology. It is time for us to move forward, and it is time for us to take the position that we want development and we want industry and we want business and we want jobs for our people, but not at the expense of public health and the climate.”

She added: “Jamaica is incredibly vulnerable to climate change. To say that you’re willing to take this risk for some short-term jobs, I find mystifying.”

Jamaica has been going through decades of low growth, double-digit unemployment and crippling debt levels that have created the circumstances for a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund.”


It is not the first time a local official has waded into controversy over securing needed investment for the country. Last year January, in the face of a hotel investment being derail over breaches, Robert Pickersgill, then environment minister, in lifting a cessation order remarked that he took note of the “the substantial value of the project to the Jamaican economy, which outweighs all other consideration”.

In September, Mining Minister Mike Henry said a decision on the coal proposal was at least 18 months away.

Global environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has said constructing the plant would violate the Paris climate agreement aimed at limiting global warming.

Porteous maintained that the Chinese investment represents an opportunity to bring well-needed economic growth to central Jamaica.

“This is the centre of the island’s only chance for revival. We have nothing else. We’re not near a beach, the north coast is taking care of itself very, very well, and I can see very great business going into Kingston.

“We have the opportunity of a lifetime with JISCO coming to take over that plant,” she said.

The Manchester Chamber of Commerce said it is already taking steps to get the parish ready to claim some of the spinoff benefits.

“We’re currently in discussions with investors to try and lure them and encourage them to come into the development of the parish to aid in the development of the parish, especially as it related to three main areas,” said Michael Gottshalk, the chamber’s manager of communications and public affairs.

He said housing to accommodate the expected influx of workers, entertainment and parking are at the top of the list.


An explosion that killed at least 21 people and injured five others last Thursday at a coal-fired plant in central China has not gone unnoticed by consulting mechanical engineer Howard Chin.

He has argued that the incident should give the Jamaican authorities cause for pause with regard to a proposal from the Chinese to build a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired plant at the Alpart alumina refinery which has been acquired by Chinese firm Jindal Iron and Steel Company Ltd (JISCO).

“China has a reputation for explosions at its coal-fired plants because the safety standards are not very well regulated, so Jamaica could face that risk … . If you look at the North-South Highway, the Chinese did a quick slab job on that one. They didn’t do proper studies for that project, if you ask me. So I think these coal plant explosions in China should be instructive for Jamaica,” he said in an interview with The Gleaner.

Chin, who is a former president of the Jamaica Institution of Engineers (JIE), explained that explosions in coal-fired plants are generally caused by improper welding.

According to Chin, the fact that the Chinese do not adhere to international welding standards, for the boiler and pressure vessels that would be used in the coal-fired plant, established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) that could result in improper welding. And improper welding could lead to deadly explosions, similar to those that occur in China. A lack of sufficient ASME certified welders in Jamaica is also seen as problematic.




Last Thursday’s explosion at the coal-fired plant in the Hubei Province of China was caused by a faulty high-pressure steam pipe which went bust. The Dangyang-based plant was still under construction when the explosion occurred.

The former JIE president raised further questions about what he described as a number of defects that would be associated with the proposed coal-fired plant.

“There is the matter of the ash. Where are you going to put all the ash? It’s possible you can put it all in cement, but that would require a cement plant to be built to take all that ash, because of lot of ash will be generated. There is also cooling water that will be needed, and the only water source that is near there is the Black River and if you cool the plant using the Black River, you are going to kill the fish in that river with all the heat, so I don’t think that is a good idea,” he said.



The Gleaner

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PARIS, France (AFP) — Investment in renewable energy hit a record US$286 billion (256 billion euros) in 2015, more than half of which came from developing countries for the first time, according to a UN report released Thursday.

All told, new money put into solar, wind, biofuels and other cleaner energy technologies has exceeded US$2.3 trillion since 2004, when total investment was less than US$50 billion, it said.

“Renewables are becoming ever more central to our low-carbon lifestyles,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which co-wrote the report.

“Importantly, for the first time in 2015, renewables investments were higher in developing countries than developed.”

That shift was led by China and India, both of which have invested heavily in clean energy even as their juggernaut economies continue to be mainly powered by carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

Renewables added more to global energy generation capacity in 2015 than all other technologies combined, including nuclear, coal, gas and mega-hydro projects of more than 50 megawatts.

Despite rock-bottom fossil fuel prices, new clean energy capacity — even excluding nuclear—- outstripped new coal and gas by more than 100 per cent, said the report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016.

The rapid transition to renewables, especially in developing and emerging economies, is “helped by sharply reduced costs, and by the benefits of local power production over reliance on imported commodities”, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which co-launched the report.

As in previous years, the growth in clean energy in 2015 was dominated by solar photovoltaics and wind, which together added 118 gigawatts in generating capacity, nearly a quarter more than the year before.

Wind contributed 62GW and photovoltaics 56 GW, with more modest inputs coming from biomass, geothermal, solar thermal and ‘waste-to-power’, in which waste products are recycled.

The fact that renewables far exceeded conventional energy for new capacity in 2015 shows that a “structural change is underway”, the report said.

But the ultimate goal of a “carbon neutral” global economy enshrined by the world’s nations at UN climate talks in Paris in December is still a distant prospect.

Excluding major hydro projects, renewables still only account for 16 per cent of the world’s total power capacity, even if that figure has consistently climbed by double digits in recent years.

Plummeting costs

Actual electricity generated is even less — barely 10 per cent.

“Despite the ambitious signals from COP21 and the growing capacity of new, installed renewable energy, there is still a long way to go,” said Udo Steffens, president of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

The Paris Agreement inked at the 195-nation ‘COP21’ talks vowed to cap global warming at below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal that scientists say will require a wholesale shift away from fossil fuels.

Much of the record-breaking investment in clean energy last year came from China, which spent nearly US$103 billion (92 billion euros), 17 per cent more than in 2014 and 36 per cent of the world total.

India was a distant second, spending US$10.2 billion, followed by South Africa (US$4.5 billion), Mexico (US$4 billion) and Chile (US$3.4 billion).

Morocco, Turkey and Uruguay filled out the list of nations, investing at least US$1 billion.

Overall, developing countries poured 17 times more money into clean energy last year than in 2004.

Jamaica Observer

The organisation that represents major oil-consuming nations said Friday that signs of a market that has “bottomed out” are emerging.

US crude prices jumped to a high for the year. Brent crude, used as a global benchmark, hit a high for the year Tuesday and rose one per cent Friday.

Energy companies have been shutting down rigs and laying off thousands of workers as oil prices plunged to around US$30 per barrel, from well over US$100 per barrel just two years ago.

A broad retreat by the energy sector played out again last Friday on both fronts.

The number of oil and natural gas rigs active in the US fell for the 12th consecutive week, according to Baker Hughes on Friday, to 480. That’s the lowest level in decades, and perhaps the fewest since the earliest days of the oil drilling industry.

And Texas driller Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said that it would cut 1,000 workers, 17 per cent of its work force.

The pain at Anadarko and other energy companies may finally be translating into a reduction of a massive and global oversupply of oil, the International Energy Agency said Friday.

OPEC production tumbled by 90,000 barrels a day last month, the IEA said. US production that had surged due to new drilling technology, is expected to fall by almost 530,000 barrels a day this year, according to the IEA.

The Paris organisation, however, said that the recovery in crude prices in recent days from multiyear lows does not mean that there will be a significant and sustained rebound in the short-term. There have been sharp declines in demand, particularly in the United States and China, it said.

China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, is attempting to quell anxiety over a slowing economy and labour unrest. Earlier this month, it cut its growth expectations for the year.

Goldman Sachs said last Friday that production is unlikely to increase in the US until 2017, and that prices could volatile in the next few months.

Analysts with Goldman said that if US drillers ramp up production with any rise in oil prices, “we believe a self-defeating rally in oil prices/equities could result.”

The report buoyed stocks of energy companies last Friday, making the sector the second-best performer on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

In the energy markets on Friday, US crude added 66 cents, or 1.7 per cent, to US$38.50 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 34 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to US$40.39 a barrel and natural gas gained 3.4 cents to US$1.822 per 1,000 cubic feet.


The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) indicated on Wednesday that to date, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) has spent US$27.87 million or J$3.2 billion on oil hedge contracts. In total, five contracts have been signed with Citibank covering periods up to December 2016.

For the current period, the contract runs from January 2016 to December 2016 with a strike price of US$65.90.

The strike price means that Jamaica will begin to receive payouts if the price per barrel of crude hits that mark or exceeds it.

Some analysts to whom the Jamaica Observer have spoken say that it is clear a better deal could have been struck had the Government waited a while before spending money for the hedge in 2015, but they also note that it could not have been predicted that oil prices would continue to slip downwards to the extent to which they have.

Earlier this week, benchmark crude prices fell to their lowest since September 2003 on worries about a global glut.

A new drop came Tuesday after the International Energy Agency, which advises industrialised countries on energy policy, used the alarming term “drown in oversupply” in relation to the oil markets of 2016. The market has begun to react to plans by Iran to ramp up supplies to regain market share.

The West Texas Intermediate index slid 2.3 per cent to US$27.80 per barrel of crude on Tuesday, while Brent slipped 2.3 per cent to US$28.09 per barrel.

On Wednesday the downward spiral continued with Brent Crude down 5.2 per cent at US$27.28 a barrel, while WTI sunk 6.6 per cent to US$26.59.

Analysts note that oil price has plummeted 75 per cent since mid-2014 as oversupply, mainly due to US shale oil flooding the market, has driven down the cost, even while a slowdown in economic growth in China and Europe has cut demand.

Locally, technocrats had suggested a return to US$70 per barrel by year end 2016, a prediction informing the decisions by the GOJ technical committee set up to manage the hedges. The technical committee is chaired by Michael Hewitt of Petrojam and has representatives from the BOJ, the Ministry of Finance, and Development Bank of Jamaica.

One analyst in Kingston, who spoke on condition of anonymity, commented, “To be honest, hindsight is 20/20. We could not have anticipated the current prices. It is easy to say the obvious, which is that if we had waited we could have got a better deal, in the form of a lower premium. In fact, it is obvious, based on where things are, the hedge (for contract periods already covered) was not needed.”

The BOJ informed the Caribbean Business Report that the GOJ is prepared to write new contracts for the period beyond 2016, before year end.

Funds already spent on hedging, provided for in the FY2015/16 budget, were paid out of the Consolidated Fund to facilitate the upfront purchase of the hedge contracts, the central bank stated.

It said that the advance is now being repaid from the proceeds of the new special consumption tax introduced in March 2015 to pay for the hedge.

The amount paid out so far is only about half of what the Government plans to raise from the SCT of $7 per litre on petrol — about six US cents per litre — which is expected to fall in the ball park of $6.4 billion by year-end.

The five existing contracts for hedging are all with Citibank which was the successful bidder for that round of contracting.

Periods covered by the contracts range from June 2015 to May 2016 (two contracts) with a weighted average strike price of US$66.55; and September 2015 to August 2016 (two contracts) with a weighted average strike price of US$66.80. The last is the contract for January 2016 to December 2016 with a strike price of US$65.90.

Regional governments have been eyeing hedging as a new strategy to protect against changes in the price of crude. Mexico, which hedged against a fall in prices, collected US$6 billion under hedge contracts in 2015.

Jamaica Observer

The Jamaica Public Service has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a China-based energy company to build the 190 MW Old Harbour Bay Power Station.

The Chinese company will replace the Spanish firm Abengoa, which filed for protection from creditors a few days after it was named as the preferred bidder for the construction of the power plant.

President and Chief Executive Office of JPS, Kelly Tomblin has said that the name of the company cannot be released due to confidentiality agreements, but that the company was well known in China and within the energy sector.

“JPS, given its continuing concerns for the financial viability and strength of Abengoa and their inability to meet our financial requirements, has moved to enter into an MOU agreement with a Chinese EPC provider,” she told The Gleaner.

Meeting With ESET

She pointed out that the name of the firm and the terms of the deal will be made public once discussions are complete.

Tomblin also indicated that JPS will be meeting with the Energy Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) next week Monday to discuss the new bidder and the finer details of a possible deal between both parties.

“We plan to meet with ESET on Monday afternoon to go through final details, and we will disclose more after that meeting.”

The JPS moved to assure stakeholders that the 190 MW project remains on track for the plant’s commissioning in 2018.

JPS says it was undaunted by the financial woes being faced by Abengoa and would be looking at alternatives.

“Abengoa was selected based on its wide-ranging and impressive technical expertise. The firm has constructed several combined cycle power plants around the world, and is also well known for its construction of renewable energy power plants. JPS also had the understanding that Abengoa’s financiers were committed to the company for the long term,” the company said in a press release.

The Gleaner

AS the discussion about the building of a port at Goat Islands heats up, we note that the minister with responsibility for environment and climate change, Mr Robert Pickersgill, has been silent on the subject.

Minister Pickersgill’s absence from the debate is especially glaring because it was he, while on a five-day visit to China with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her team last August, who brought the matter into the public domain when he told representatives of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) that the location was “now under very serious consideration”.

It’s glaring, too, given the environmental implications of building port facilities, with the accompanying infrastructure, in an area zoned for fish sanctuaries, game reserves, and housing what is perhaps the most pristine dry limestone forest in the region.

Housing, Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies has been the one doing all the talking on this issue. To date, the most details the country has been fed about the much-talked-about project came in his presentation to Parliament last week Tuesday in which he outlined the basic scope of the works.

According to Dr Davies, the activities to be carried out under phase one include dredging and land reclamation, the construction of berths, warehouses, an industrial park, a container terminal, bridges, roads, pipelines, sewage lines and a sewage treatment plant.

CHEC intends, too, to build a coal-fired plant to avoid the high cost of electricity provided by the Jamaica Public Service Company.

While we maintain that environmental preservation and development do not have to be at odds with each other, we cannot overlook the effect of burning coal on air quality. In China, for instance, coal is used for about 65 per cent of its energy needs, but the Government is now seeking to cut its reliance on the fuel source by two percentage points a year.

Importantly, when coal is burned, it releases carbon dioxide, the main culprit in global warming and climate change.

On that basis, as Ms Dianna McCaulay rightly pointed out last week, the decision to allow such a plant in Jamaica is not in line with the country’s draft climate change policy. Neither does it appear to be in line with Vision 2030, which seeks to phase out fossil fuels to the point where 20 per cent of the energy mix will be supplied by renewable sources by 2030.

Surely, the apparent contradictions have not escaped Minister Pickersgill and the technocrats in his ministry. What, then, accounts for his silence?

Is the minister toeing the party line, or is he no longer committed to his oft repeated phrase “with climate change we must change”?

Jamaica Observer;