Tag: Energy minister


The JPS has said its protection system failed on Saturday after a problem at the Hunt’s Bay power station which triggered an all-island blackout.

The Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) says it’s acquiring the services of an independent consultant to evaluate its protection system in the wake of last Saturday’s islandwide blackout.

The disclosure was made by the company’s president and Chief Executive Officer, Kelly Tomblin, during a meeting with energy minister, Andrew Wheatley, yesterday.

The CEO provided an update on the ongoing investigation into the outage, noting that the JPS is already taking several steps to address human error potential and system protection concerns.

Tomblin said the JPS believes an independent protection and system expert can help to evaluate the company’s total protection scheme and make recommendations for operation enhancements, and the level of investment required to meet reliability expectations.

The JPS team also informed that the enhanced protection system, known as ‘Switch on to fault,’ has been restored, while the Company continues to evaluate whether this enhanced system would have prevented Saturday’s outage.


IN PHOTO: Kelly Tomblin

The JPS has also committed to involve the energy minister’s team in future grid investment decisions.

Two JPS employees have been suspended pending the outcome of the probe.

The JPS is expected to give a full report on the outage to the Office of Utilities Regulations on September 27.



Winsome Callum

Early indications from the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) have pointed to a breakdown in its protection systems as the most likely cause of the islandwide power outage that occurred over the weekend.

While the company has said that more fulsome investigations into the issue will take time, it has confirmed that the outage was triggered during scheduled maintenance work at the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) substation in Kingston.

“The scheduled work was part of ongoing system improvements being done by JPS to our power delivery (transmission and distribution) network,” Winsome Callum, director of corporate communications at the power company, said in an emailed response to The Gleaner.


Breakdown In Operating Procedures


According to Callum, initial investigations have revealed that there was a breakdown in the implementation of the established operating procedures for the work being done. This, she said, triggered a system fault that led to the outage.

“Preliminary indications are that the first level of the protection system did not operate as expected. As a result, several units at our power plants went offline. The network, in turn, shut down to protect itself from possible damage,” she said in explaining the failure on the protection system.

The protection system is a built-in mechanism on the national grid which is designed to safeguard against procedural errors.

“The protection system is designed to operate at different levels, ranging from isolating areas with a fault all the way up to the ultimate protection being to shut the entire electricity network down in the event of a major system fault,” the power company said.

The electricity supplier has indicated that in the coming days, its investigations will be focused on evaluating why the protection mechanism did not operate as expected.

The power company said it has already taken corrective measures and will be investing in system upgrades to create what it describes as a self-healing grid.

In the meantime, the Office of Utilities Regulation will today meet with executives of the JPS to discuss details of the ongoing investigations into the power outage.

The utility regulator wrote to the company yesterday requesting a preliminary report into the incident.

Callum confirmed that Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley was provided with a preliminary overview on the outage and was to receive an initial report yesterday.


The Gleaner

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Malvern, St Elizabeth — Eighteen months after ground was broken, the 36.3-megawatt wind farm run by BMR Jamaica Wind at Potsdam, Malvern, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, was formally commissioned in mid-August.

Priced at US$89.9 million, the wind project, located across the road from another wind farm run by light and power company Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), is being described as the single largest investment in St Elizabeth since construction of the Alpart alumina plant at Nain in the late 1960s.

The BMR project includes eleven wind turbines, which will provide energy to JPS’s national grid at US12.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.

BMR Jamaica Wind is a subsidiary of US-based BMR Energy. Guests at the recent formal commissioning were told that billionaire British investor, Sir Richard Branson — who turned up for the commissioning — was in the process of acquiring BMR through his wide- ranging and far-flung Virgin Group.

Branson, who triggered laughter by ripping up and throwing away what he said were his speaking notes, told his audience that his motive for the acquisition was to promote a clean energy revolution.

“I decided recently that we needed to get one or two core (clean energy) companies under our belt so that we can actually get out there and speed up this revolution …” he said.

“ We were delighted to acquire BMR and we will be out there trying to hustle and bustle governments all over the Caribbean and other countries to hurry up towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Personally, I don’t need to make money out of it, if it makes a bit of money, fine; if it doesn’t, fine. I just want to get the wind out there get the solar out there, … be powered by sun, wind, sea… a green energy revolution and bring the cost of energy down for everybody; get rid of the dangers of coal and oil and the dirty energies that we are using today… ” said Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.

Funding for the BMR project in Malvern was sourced through a package including a US$42-million loan from the US quasi-government investment agency Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which pushes US overseas investment globally; US$10 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which promotes private sector development; US$10 million from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Programme and equity investment of US$26.9 million from BMR Energy.

Jamaica’s energy minister Andrew Wheatley said the BMR wind farm formed part of the government’s drive to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce the current annual oil bill of about US$2 billion. Ninety-two per cent of Jamaica’s energy needs are currently met by oil imports, he said.

The project was in line with the target of 30 per cent renewables in the national energy mix by 2030, as stated in the National Energy Policy, and in keeping with Vision 2030 Jamaica, the minister said.

“Projects like BMR continue to establish Jamaica as a clear renewables market leader within the Caribbean. By the end of this year, we would have added 80 MW of renewable energy to the national grid, through Wigton III (a wind farm at Rose Hill in southern Manchester), Content Solar (solar plant in Clarendon), and this facility,” Wheatley said.

Bruce Levy, president of BMR Energy, said the company had plans to expand the wind farm at Malvern by an additional three wind turbines. Small farmers would co-exist with the energy-generating operations, he said.

Jamaica Observer 

Winsome Callum


Up to late last night, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) was yet to determine what caused a “fairly widespread” power outage that left tens of thousands in darkness.

Reports of the outage began to emerge shortly after seven o’clock from Manchester, Hanover, St Mary, Kingston, St Andrew, Portland, St Catherine, Trelawny, St James, Clarendon, and Westmoreland.

The JPS issued a statement almost an hour later, from its Twitter account, advising that “the problem seems to be fairly widespread as customers in several parishes have been affected”.

It added: “We are not able at this point to say what caused the problem or how soon we’ll have everybody back on, but power has already been restored to some areas.”

Winsome Callum, director, corporate communications at JPS, later explained that “a number of generating units went offline simultaneously, resulting in a fairly widespread outage affecting customers in several parishes.

“We are not able at this point to say what caused the units to go offline or how soon we’ll have everyone back,” she added.

Callum explained that the restoration “could take a while because of the pretty involved process of ramping up units before energising the lines”.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley said he had been in contact with the Kelly Tomblin, president and chief executive of JPS, about the situation.

“I’m sure that I will be getting a report on the matter,” Wheatley told The Gleaner.

Last month, the light and power company advised that customers could experience outages between April and May as the company moves to convert its operations at the Bogue power station in St James to natural gas.


The Gleaner

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KINGSTON, Jamaica – Customers of Jamaica Public Service (JPS) will again be able to apply for licences to sell their excess electricity generated from renewable energy sources to the grid as of April 11, 2016.

Minister of Science Energy & Technology (MSET) Dr Andrew Wheatley today announced that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) will resume accepting applications on behalf of the ministry for net billing under similar terms as the previously-concluded net billing pilot project until the details of a permanent programme are finalised.

According to a release from the ministry, the decision to continue the programme came out of an agreement reached on April 7 with the OUR and JPS.

All parties agreed that it was in the best interest of all concerned that the net billing programme be resumed so as to strengthen the development of the renewable energy sector in accordance with the National Energy Policy, the release said.

The two-year pilot programme was extended to May 2015, as the system peak demand threshold for net billing was not met.  As at March 2015, 351 applications were received, 311 of which were granted licences, the ministry said.

Oil powerhouses Russia and Saudi Arabia joined Qatar and Venezuela in pledging Tuesday to cap their crude output if other producers do the same, aiming to halt a slide that has pushed oil prices to their lowest point in more than a decade.

The decision followed an unexpected closed-door meeting involving the four countries in the Qatari capital, Doha, and reflects growing concern among big producers about the effects the slump poses to their domestic economies.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in a statement issued after the meeting that the four countries would be ready to cap production based on last month’s output levels if others join.

“We are ready to maintain, on average in 2016, the level of oil production of January 2016 and not exceed it,” he said in a subsequent statement.

Whether the plan is enough to put a floor under prices is uncertain. The proposal depends on cooperation from a range of producers with differing budget priorities all scrambling for market share since prices began falling in summer 2014.

Among the hardest to bring on board will likely be Iran. It was noticeably absent from Tuesday’s gathering even though it shares control of a major underwater natural gasfield with fellow OPEC member Qatar.

Iran is eager to ramp up its exports now that sanctions related to its nuclear programme have been lifted, saying recently it aims to put another 500,000 barrels a day on the market. Figures from the International Energy Agency show that it pumped 2.9 million barrels daily in December, before sanctions were lifted.

Iran’s petroleum minister, Bijar Namdar Zangeneh, signalLed the Islamic Republic has no intention of giving up its share of the market. He acknowledged that global markets are “oversupplied,” but said Iran “will not overlook its quota,” according to comments carried by his ministry’s Shana news service.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino heads to Tehran next for talks with his Iranian and Iraqi counterparts today, Wednesday.

“The key OPEC members that need to take part are Iran and Iraq, where the big increases are likely this year, but there are big doubts over whether this can be achieved,” Barclays analysts Miswin Mahesh and Kevin Norrish said in a research note.

Efforts to make the plan work are complicated by deep levels of distrust between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has built close ties to Iraq’s government in the years since the 2003 US-led invasion.

The two countries are in opposing camps in regional disputes from Yemen to Syria. Last month, Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Shiite powerhouse Iran after the Saudi embassy and a consulate were torched by Iranian protesters angry over the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said producers would continue to assess the state of the market in the months ahead. He described freezing output at January levels as an “adequate” step for now.

All of the countries at Tuesday’s meeting, except Russia, are part of OPEC. Saudi Arabia dominates policymaking within the 13-member bloc of oil-producing countries, which has refused to cut its official production targets. Doing so could bolster faltering prices.

The aim of OPEC’s keep-pumping strategy has been to attempt to ride out the 12-year lows in prices and force higher-cost producers, including shale drillers in the US, out of the market.

The bloc collectively pumped 39 million barrels of crude and natural gas liquids a day in December, or about two out of every five barrels globally. Russia pumps around 11 million barrels a day.

After rising soon after the meeting, a barrel of benchmark New York crude was trading down 35 cents at US$29.09 by midmorning in New York. A barrel of Brent, the international standard, fell 59 cents to US$33.42.

The Gleaner

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Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell

ALMOST a year after net billing was suspended, there are indications that the programme is to resume, although Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell is yet to set a timeline.

He said recommendations have been made to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to resume processing licences. But, before that can happen, the Electricity Lighting Act must be amended and the Jamaica Solar Energy Association (SEA) raised concerns that nothing has been done to have the legislation amended.

At Wednesday’s national conference for the development of an energy services company industry in Jamaica, Paulwell said that the Government is committed to reopening net billing.

He, however, explained that while the law names the Energy Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) as the body responsible for regulating new generation capacity, it was felt that it (net billing) is not appropriately placed at ESET, and that the OUR is expected to resume processing net billing licences.

So far, more than 300 licences have been issued, but solar energy providers have not been able to interconnect to the JPS grid since May of last year.

David Barrett, president of SEA, says the association’s membership is still in a state of confusion.

“It’s static now (the sector) because people have no entity to get a licence from, they don’t know who to go to. Some persons have gone to the OUR or the JPS (Jamaica Public Service company) but they can’t do it because of the obvious reasons,” he told the Jamaica Observer last Thursday.

Over the months, entrepreneurs in the solar energy sector have complained bitterly of suffering millions in losses after the JPS stopped net billing to carry out an assessment of the pilot. The review was completed by the United States’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the report made public in June, but all grid interconnection for new net billing projects islandwide have still remained on hold.

Solar energy providers say the prolonged suspension has dealt their outfits a serious blow, arguing, too, that the JPS has too much power over the arrangement and that the Government needs to act decisively on the issue.

Barrett said the members are neither pleased with the pace of the process nor the new conditions that are being established.

“What has been decided is that the cap is to be five megawatts instead of 11 as it would have been in the previous phase, and that the cap for the individual locations will remain as they are. The association is not too happy about that because we feel that there is easy opportunity to increase potential for renewables in Jamaica without disturbing the grid in any way,” he told the Observer earlier this month.

Additionally, Barrett expressed disappointment that the association had not been invited to the table when the new cap was being set. “So we don’t have the information that fed into the decision-making process,” he stated.

Net billing permits JPS customers, who own renewable energy generators, to produce electricity for personal use and to sell excess energy to the light and power monopoly at wholesale prices, which are set by the OUR.

Jamaica Observer 

Nigeria’s Minister of State for petroleum resources and President of the OPEC conference Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu (left), and OPEC’s secretary general Abdalla Salem El-Badri of Libya attend a news conference after a meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Friday, December 4, 2015.

OPEC nations decided on Friday to keep producing oil at their current high levels, effectively acknowledging their inability to push up crude prices.

An attempt to nudge the cost of oil higher would have involved lowering output. Instead, the organisation’s endorsement of present output, which is more than 1.5 million barrels a day above the formal ceiling of 30 million barrels, is likely to push the price of oil down further.

The ministers of the Organis-ation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries appeared to have little choice. Major producing nations in the cartel were opposed to reducing output. Instead, OPEC is poised to produce more oil.

Iran, which once pumped around four million barrels a day and is now down to about half that, is preparing to come back fully on line once it sheds nuclear-related sanctions in a few months.

Senior oil official Amir Hossein Zamaninia said last week Iran hopes to bring an extra 500,000 barrels on the market by early next year. He said he hopes the extra output will be accommodated within OPEC’s formal ceiling of 30 million barrels a day.

Arriving for Friday’s meeting, Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said Iran is ready to discuss a ceiling for its production but only after his country makes a “full return to the market.”

Iraq is also resurgent. The country has seen the fastest rise in crude production in the world this year. It was pumping more than 4 million barrels a day last month and was responsible for last month’s biggest monthly rise in output among all OPEC countries.

And the ministers agreed to readmit past member Indonesia, to expand their ranks to 13. While that country’s production goes mostly for domestic consumption, that move could also add some to the total amount of OPEC barrels on sale.

A final statement on the meeting was unusual in not mentioning any decision on production ceilings. But conference president Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told reporters that there was agreement to maintain “current actual production”, which is well above the formal ceiling set at 30 million barrels a day.

Friday’s news pushed oil prices down, with the US benchmark rate sliding 2.7 per cent on the day to US$39.99.

The decision effectively leaves it up to individual members how much crude to pump and was a strong signal of OPEC’s eroding ability to act as a group in efforts to influence supply, demand and prices.

Kachikwu acknowledged as much, telling reporters asking about Iran’s return: “At the end of the day every country has a sovereign right to bring to the marketplace its resources.”

“The logic is simple,” he said, of OPEC’s present clout in a market where non-members such as Russia and U.S. shale producers play an increasingly large role. “We are only 35 per cent of the producers and there are still 65 per cent out there.”

Some OPEC members are producing at their limit and like at previous meetings, the pressure was on swing-producer Saudi Arabia, which accounts for about a third of OPEC’s output, to cut back. But the desert kingdom remained opposed.

The Saudis already resisted cutbacks a year ago, a strategy calculated to put higher-cost outside competitors like United States shale oil producers out of business. The hope was that would eventually lead to a drop in supply and a rebound in prices.

That plan clearly hasn’t worked, with benchmark US crude’s value falling by more than 40 per cent over the past year and now hovering around the US$40 mark per barrel.

Cushioned by past profits on oil, the Saudis can hold out, even if production costs exceed sale revenues. Not so much some others.

Kachikwu, the conference president who also represented Nigeria at the meeting, acknowledged that continued low prices will hurt his country.

“There will be pain,” he said.

The Gleaner

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has announced that it no longer has responsibility for the Net Billing Programme.

The net-billing system, which was introduced in 2012, allows persons who own renewable energy generators to generate electricity for personal use, and sell excess energy to the national grid.

This process was being led by the OUR.

However, the OUR said the deletion of Condition 18 of the Amended and Restated All-Island Electric Licence and the provisions in the Electricity Act, 2015, which came into effect in August, means that it no longer has authority to lawfully engage in the addition of generating capacity to the national grid.




It said Section 9 (2) of the Electricity Act specifically excludes the OUR’s involvement in accepting applications and making recommendations to the minister of science, technology, energy and mining for licences.

The OUR said that section provides that the minister has exclusive authority over the issuing of licences.

The OUR said that as a result, it cannot lawfully assume responsibility for the licensing process and, therefore, it considers its substantive role in the Net Billing Programme at an end.

The Gleaner