Tag: Climate Change

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.

Thera Edwards with a copy of the book ‘Global Change and the Caribbean: Adaptation and Resilience’.

A NEW book on resilience building in the Caribbean, forced by the changing climate and driven by globalisation and population growth, has hit local shelves, with the goal to lend insight into regional realities and help inform future action.

Called ‘Global Change and the Caribbean: Adaptation and Resilience‘, the book’s chapters are selected from among 37 papers presented at the sixth British-Caribbean Geography Seminar Series, held at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, in 2014.

It is edited by David Barker, Duncan McGregor, Kevon Rhiney, and Thera Edward, and published by the UWI Press.

The official launch took place on May 25.

For Edwards, it is a timely publication, one that comes as the Caribbean ramps up research into climate change, which has seen temperature increases in and outside of the region, rising sea levels, and threats of more extreme weather events and the related negative implications for the health of the region’s population and their livelihoods.

“One of the important things is that it doesn’t just look at Jamaica. A lot of times people talk about the separateness of some of the Caribbean states, so looking at different islands and countries in a comprehensive volume is important. It shows where there might be some differences in terms of contexts but also commonalities in terms of what we are facing regionally,” Edwards told The Gleaner.

Among the islands looked at are St Kitts, Dominica, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St Vincent, and Suriname.

“We are also moving beyond the talk of SIDS (small island developing states) and their vulnerability to adaptation how and what we are changing about our approach and the resilience of the region. So we are not just looking at the ‘poor us, woe is we’; we are looking at how are we holding up,” the editor added.

An additional benefit, she said, is that it draws on the experience and diversity of people in scholarship young and old, in and outside of the Caribbean.

Among the specific issues looked at are Caribbean tourism and urban development; the 2014 Jamaica drought; banana farming in Dominica after Hurricane Hugo; social capital and rural resilience among the Carib communities in northeastern St Vincent; and local knowledge and community resilience.

“We want people to use this book to look at what is happening. It is a sort of follow-on from some of the previous volumes so just to look at how things have changed (is important),” the editor said.

Double Exposure

“We want people to look at things like double exposure, where you look at not only the process of global change, but also climate change, both of which have an impact on the environment and the social system. We want this complete look at things in terms of what is happening in terms of world processes like globalisation and climate change and how together they have influences on the region,” the editor said.

“We also want persons who are in policymaking and developers to look at what is emerging from some of the research. There are also some other things we can (all) look forward to like environmental justice, which looks at the fair treatment and inclusion of communities in the enforcement of environmental laws and policy. Similarly, there is climate justice, which sort of intersects with what is going on with environmental degradation and some of the inequalities that come out of it,” Edwards added.

The book is available at the UWI Bookshop in Kingston, as well as at all branches of Kingston Bookshop and Sangster’s Book Store.

JAMAICA’S CLIMATE Change Division (CCD) is working on strengthening coordination and overall efficiency within the island’s focal point network, tasked to ensure climate change considerations are included in the planning and operations of each ministry, department and agency of government.

A first step is a lunch meeting to be held this Friday to share on the state of play with international climate change deliberations, post the entering into force of the historic Paris Agreement Jamaica’s ratification of which became official on May 10.

“We will also have a discussion about how we prepare for a pre-COP (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), what type of pre-COP event we would want to have this year (ahead of the international talks to be held in Bonn), and the mini-COP we have planned for schools with the Ministry of Education,” revealed Una May Gordon, principal director for the CCD.

This meeting follows on a recent stocktaking of how the focal point representatives currently do their work and the way in which they use their knowledge of climate change.

The next step will be to secure a dedicated officer to handle coordination of the network, which currently has some 27 representatives from across the public sector.

“We are hoping that the consultant should be on board in June,” Gordon told The Gleaner, adding that funding for that person has come through the Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (JCCCP).

The Jamaica component of the JCCCP was launched in June last year by the United Nations Development Programme and is designed to “bring together policymakers, experts and representatives of communities to encourage policy innovation for climate technology incubation and diffusion”.

The island is set to receive US$1.8 million of the US$15 million earmarked for eight Caribbean islands to help with climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Network Coordination

In addition to coordination of the focal point network with a focus on sectors such as forestry, water and energy, for which adaptation and mitigation plans are being or will be developed Gordon said the consultant will also support the climate change board and its activities.

Attention is also being paid to the composition of the network.

“We are re-examining the focal points to see if we have the right people in place and to ensure we get more depth and adequate coverage across all the portfolios,” Gordon noted.

“I think we can add a few more (representatives) because some ministries have changed. There is (for example) the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, so we need two there. Another is the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport,” she added.

The CCD, meanwhile, has managed to add to its own team over recent months. There is now a mitigation officer Omar Alcock who takes over from Gerald Lindo, who left last year.

There is also a climate finance adviser whose services have been provided through support from the Commonwealth Secretariat, as well as a public awareness and behaviour change officer, appointed through the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience.

“I am quite satisfied with my little team,” said a smiling Gordon.

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Thousands of photovoltaic panels across the UK generate 8.7GW, smashing previous high of 8.48GW earlier this month

Woman relaxes on deckchair in London.

Solar power has broken new records in the UK by providing nearly a quarter of the country’s electricity needs, thanks to sunny skies and relatively low summer demand.

National Grid said the thousands of photovoltaic panels on rooftops and in fields across the UK were generating 8.7GW, or 24.3% of demand at 1pm on Friday, smashing the previous high of 8.48GW earlier this month.

Experts said the unprecedented share for solar energy meant about 60% of the UK’s power was low carbon, taking into account Britain’s wind farms and nuclear power stations too. That figure is normally around 50%.

National Grid, which is tasked with ensuring a match between supply and demand for electricity, said it was excited but unfazed by the challenge of accommodating “significant volumes” of renewables.

Solar provided a record percentage of UK power at 1pm on 26 May 2017
 Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 20.40.20

Duncan Burt, who manages day-to-day operation of the grid, said: “We have planned for these changes to the energy landscape and have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand.”

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace, said: “Today’s new record is a reminder of what the UK could achieve if our government reversed its cuts to support for solar, and backed the clean technologies that could provide jobs, business opportunities and plentiful clean energy for decades to come.”

The milestone reached on Friday is the latest in a series of records for solar, which has grown from almost nothing seven years ago to 12GW of capacity today. Last summer it provided more power than the UK’s last 10 coal-fired power stations.

In April this year, Britain achieved its first-ever full working day without coal powersince it started burning the fuel in 1882, thanks in part to solar energy.

Solar’s rapid growth is overturning conventions for the managers of the UK’s power grid. In March, for the first time ever, the amount of electricity demanded by homes and businesses in the afternoon was lower than it was in the night, thanks to the cut in demand due to solar panels.

Alastair Buckley, a solar expert at the University of Sheffield, said of the latest record: “I think it’s a positive sign. It’s free electricity today, for the consumer, and we should make the most of it.”

Solar power generation in the UK
 Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 20.41.54

He said that with solar continuing to be installed despite the government’s drastic subsidy cuts in 2016, further records will certainly be broken this summer and for years to come.

Buckley said the grid could handle a far greater proportion of solar power than currently seen, because gas power stations could be ramped down. For National Grid, periods of high pressure bringing lovely weather to the UK like this week were: “really predictable, so easy to plan for,” Buckley said.

Robert Gross of Imperial College said: “This doesn’t pose fundamental problem for the grid – many sunnier countries manage a similar proportion of solar on a much more regular basis.”

Government statistics published on Thursday show that UK solar power capacity has grown from 11.3GW in April last year to 12.1GW this year, enough to power 3.8m homes.

Guardian graphic | Source: MyGridGB
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.

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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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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.

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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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From left: Renford Smith, Marcus Grant and Alan Searchwell connecting the electrical components of a solar panel at the Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, recently.

As the debate intensifies over the possible rate increases which could face Jamaicans as more and more customers leave the Jamaica Public Service Company’s (JPS) grid, there are calls for a collaborative approach to the issue.

Manager of the Grid Performance Department at the JPS, Lincoy Small, says the various stakeholders must engage in dialogue to find an approach to provide the cheapest source of electricity to Jamaicans.

According to Small, it cannot be a matter of either renewable energy (RE) or staying on the JPS grid but a combination of the two.

“JPS is not telling people that renewable is not the way to go, because JPS even operates renewable facilities, but the key thing is to get them (grid and RE) working together in tandem to come up with the best synergy of what is best for the customer and what is best for the country,” said Small.

His comments came as Robert Wright, president of the Jamaica Solar Energy Association, told The Sunday Gleaner he has no desire for Jamaicans to leave the JPS grid.

Grid Stability

Wright said he strongly believes RE should be maximised and not just limited to large systems scattered across the island, but smaller systems distributed right across the country.

“When you have these smaller systems spread across the country it provides for better grid stability, and also it allows for more people to participate in clean energy as opposed to simply relying on large solar farms,” said Wright.

But Small said, based on experience due to the unpredictability of RE, the JPS sometimes has to resort to load shedding when customers jump on and off the grid.

He reiterated that JPS’s customers could face additional cost if the impact of RE on the grid is not handled carefully.

“So we are accepting solar power from the customers and as soon as something happens it drops off, and does so much quicker than the grid can even respond on some of those occasions, and as a result you have to be running expensive machines that are quicker to deal with those sun drop-offs or have to shed people’s light,” argued Small.

“And if you run these expensive machines or shed people’s light it means the overall cost to run the grid is going to be absorbed by the customer; you are going to have to pay for a more expensive energy source.”

The JPS executive said the company is actively seeking to incorporate new technology to deal with the loss of the intermittent renewable resources.

But Wright argued that the good news for Jamaicans is that the cost of RE is declining rapidly, enabling it to compete with traditional sources of energy.

“A system that a typical household would need in Jamaica two years ago would cost $1 million; that same system today cost $500,000, so we have seen a significant drop in prices,” said Wright.

“Also what is revolutionary is that the cost of batteries has gone down a lot, so now, even more than before, we will be able to offer that to residential customers at an affordable price.

“What is becoming more available now are systems called micro-inverters, and these allow you to install a very simple rooftop system which is cheaper, faster to install and is more appropriate for affordable housing developments, and so on.”

Batteries Expensive

But Small countered that with solar and wind on average only available for 20 and 35 per cent of the day, respectively, and the cost of buying and replacing batteries being expensive, it might be cheaper for customers to get their power from the JPS grid when RE is not available.

“It (solar) is a good thing to have, but it cannot be operated in isolation, and that is something a lot of people in the solar business not telling their customers,” said Small.

“Because even if you get a panel or a wind turbine and you get the battery, you are going to need a grid to at least charge up that battery for the 80 per cent of the time you are without solar or the 65 per cent of the time you are without wind.

“Plus, you will have to be replacing the battery every two to three years for full value, and batteries cost much more than solar panels.”

Small said the JPS is focused on supplying power as cheaply as possible so persons can take the cheap power from the grid rather than go buy a battery and use the solar power and the wind when it is available.

With Jamaica being a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the utilisation of more RE forms part of the National Energy Policy which sees the country aiming to have 30 per cent RE penetration by 2030.

The country is currently at approximately 10 per cent of the quota, with roughly 300 net billing customers (those who have solar systems which allows them to consume energy and sell surplus) and around 10 larger customers.

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