The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said it would consider financing projects for waste to energy in Jamaica, but cautioned that the cost of doing so would have to be around US$0.12 per kilowatt hour for it to make sense to consumers.
“We could finance waste to energy,” but “at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to the cost. I think that’s a key component which I don’t know if it has been fully analysed,” said lead investment officer at the IDB, Stefan Wright.
He said that if solar energy was currently being produced at US$0.12/kWh,”it makes no sense financing waste-to-energy at US$0.20/kWh because JPS [Jamaica Public Service Company] won’t buy that.”
Renewable energy is a focus of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the private-sector arm of the IDB which last year reorganised three of its four private-sector windows specifically to be more strategic, align with the IDB’s country strategy and become more effective in terms of how the Bank deploys private sector resources, Wright told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday.
“We are working with entities in Jamaica now to finance renewable energy projects,” said Wright, noting that Jamaica has done a good job in bringing more renewable energy on the grid and reducing the 90 per cent oil bill, “and we are very much interested in partnering with those entities who want financing”.
Referring to Jamaica’s main garbage-disposal sites, including the Riverton dump in Kingston, Wright said it would be good to be able to use those resources in a more environmentally friendly way, “but at the end of the day it must make sense for consumers”.
He also pointed to the Government’s efforts, announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness with the formation of an enterprise team in October last year, to manage the State’s waste-to-energy programme, contracting out of solid-waste management and collection and divestment of the Riverton City landfill.
At that time, Holness was quoted as saying that the Government had received more than 30 expressions of interests to either bid on the waste-to-energy programme or to collect solid waste or both.
“We stand ready to finance projects which come out of that,” said the investment officer, noting that after the tender process is completed, entities wishing to invest in the facility would seek financing from the IDB to make the business a reality.
However, he pointed out that one of the key requirements is that such entities engaging in such energy supply programmes must obtain power purchase agreements from the JPS.
“So we are certainly willing to help to participate in that,” he said. “We will finance any sustainable project which is helping to generate economic growth,” he added, noting that the IDB was offering loans between US$5 million and US$200 million per project, “and we don’t have any country limits now in terms of what we can finance”.
Wright said “we are looking at a number of projects and renewable energy and waste energy is something that we would certainly consider.”
General manager for the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department, Therese Turner-Jones, who also participated in the forum, said she has been to a series of renewable-energy conferences where private-sector interests offer various solutions, “and they look at the Caribbean as being ripe for investment because we’ve done so little”.
Comparing Jamaica with Hawaii, where the goal is 100 per cent renewables, Turner-Jones, noted that the US state is “almost there”.
“So it’s possible (for Jamaica) to do it. The technology exists,” she added.
JPS, which controls power distribution, is now reporting that renewables should account for around 12 per cent of its electricity production this year. Jamaica is aiming for a mix of 30 per cent by 2030.
A new energy-saving project costing US$30 million ($3.8 billion) will seek to reduce traffic jams in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) by synchronising 140 stop lights through a fibre-optic ring, while also cutting energy consumption at scores of government buildings.
The plan requires funding approval from donor agencies Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency. Both are considering loans of up to US$15 million each to a project that has Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica acting as the executing agency.
The project, dubbed ‘Jamaica Energy Management and Efficiency Programme’, involves three components: it aims to fast-track Government’s National Energy Conservation and Efficiency Policy 2010-2030, target a 70 per cent reduction in energy “intensity”, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent, said the IDB.
The traffic component aims to reduce the idle time that cars run on the road, which would reduce gas consumption. It would achieve this by implementing a more robust urban traffic management system – UTMS – which involves linking into the fibre-optic ring already developed by telecoms providers.
The IDB revealed the project late August and released documents on the project profile and environmental analysis. Both documents contain figures which vary slightly when breaking down each component, but the objectives remain consistent.
Regarding the road network, the government will upgrade or implement technologies for nine road segments, most of which are located in Kingston and one in Spanish Town.
The IDB, utilising data from the National Works Agency (NWA), indicated that traffic growth along some of the KMA’s key corridors has increased 39-50 per cent over a decade, 2005-2015, without any associated improvements in road or intersection capacity.
Additionally, the absence of a complete UTMS to sync the operation of 140 traffic lights, with average spacing of 300 metres in between, remains a key factor causing congestion in the KMA.
“Most of the population commutes within urban centres, resulting in significant amount of congestion, lost time and wasted gasolene during idling or stalled traffic, especially the capital city Kingston,” stated the IDB.
Component I of the project amounts to US$24 million to finance energy efficiency and energy-conservation measures in government facilities, which could span 75 entities, with focus on educational and health facilities. Component II, at US$2.8 million, involves the financing of fuel efficiency in the transport sector. Component III, at US$1.8 million, will finance institutional strengthening for energy planning by developing information systems and training.
In 2015, public-sector facilities consumed some 7.4 per cent of all electricity generated in Jamaica, or approximately 393 gigawatt hours, costing the GOJ around US$36 million in oil imports, or an estimated US$102 million in electricity bills, the IDB said. Of this figure, roughly 22 per cent related to education and health facilities.
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.
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.
Steadman Fuller, custos of Kingston has described climate change as the single greatest threat to local agriculture and, by extension, the Jamaican economy.
“Sadly, ladies and gentlemen, the food security to which we are traditionally accustomed is under serious threat. Only this time, it is under threat not directly from crop diseases and pests or praedial larceny, but from a more severe, potentially devastating and costly phenomenon called climate change,” Fuller told patrons on Sunday while delivering the keynote address on day two of the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show.
Explaining climate change as a “noticeable and sustained variation in weather conditions”, the custos sought to drive home to his audience the impact of climate change.
“The excessive heat that we have experienced; the long, dry season and the disappearance of some of some of our beaches, such as what is taking place at Hellshire in Portmore, are the direct result of climate change. You may even want to account that the heat that you have been feeling today is part of that phenomenon. In relation to agriculture specifically, climate change is a ticking time bomb,” Fuller declared.
“Just to give you an example, the destructive forces of flood and bush fires which destroy hundreds of acres of crops and farmland across Jamaica in the process, are reminders of our vulnerability to the intensity of natural disasters due to climate change. If left unchecked, climate change could reduce crop yields and the overall contribution of agriculture to national development. The farming sector could be wiped out if measures to safeguard the industry are not swiftly implemented and vigorously pursued.”
Fuller said that the theme of this year’s show ‘Grow What We Eat … Eat What We Grow Through Climate-smart Agriculture’ is evidence that the Jamaica Agriculture Society is well aware of the imminent danger and is ready to have that important conversation with farmers and other stakeholders in order to avert the potential danger.
He also had a message for policymakers.
“While there is no simple solution to the threat and consequences of climate change, it is a reality that measures and strategies must be implemented to ensure that our farmers can continue to do what they have done for centuries, and that is feed our nation.
“As a nation, we have to introduce measures to embrace climate-smart agricultural practices, so that rural communities can remain economically viable; our tourism and hospitality sector can have a sustained supply of fruits and vegetables and high-quality products; (and) our agro-processing sector can achieve its growth potential.”
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.
The Kingston-based bakery Honey Bun Limited is planning to spend US$250,000 to invest in its own 100-kilowatt solar-energy system at its factory in Kingston with the objective of increasing efficiency.
The project is expected to save the company, funded and run by the Chong family, up to 30 per cent on its electricity bill. The company’s strategy is to stagger the solar project over five stages with the first completed in December.
“Honey Bun strives to be more efficient while considering the impact we have on our environment. To that end, we aim to reduce our carbon footprint through Jamaica’s natural solar energy,” according to Chief Operating Officer Daniel Chong.
The company started installing solar panels on the roof of the factory since September 2015, Chong said. In the first phase,
24 kilowatts of inter-connected self-consumption photovoltaic power was installed. This will run concurrently with power supplied by the Jamaica Public Service, in order to increase energy output while lowering cost, he added. The precise timeline for the remaining stages remains undetermined.
“This will be concurrent with the expected build-out of factory space for increased output capacity,” Honey Bun said in response to Wednesday Business queries.
The project is expected to lower the $36 million spent in its 2015 financial year ($38.8 million in 2014) on an expense-line item termed rates, taxes, telephone, fuel and electricity.
Honey Bun’s property, plant and equipment, fair valued at $278 million, remains its largest asset which drives the electricity spend. Honey Bun acquired two properties in the company’s financial year ending September 2014. The acquisitions resulted in $145 million worth of additions to its property, plant and equipment during the 2014 financial year.
The company reportedly bought a 20,000-square foot property that joins its existing operations on Retirement Crescent to another piece it bought in October 2014. Its three properties combined are contiguous at numbers 22, 24 and 26 Retirement Crescent. The properties total some 1.3 acres or 57,000 square feet.
Honey Bun earned $69.9 million in profit from $885 million in sales for its September 2015 year end, compared with $22 million the previous year.
The company manufactures and distributes baked products to the local and export markets. It was listed on the junior market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange in June 2011. The profit rise contributed to the company’s stock jumping from $1.71 to $6.18 over 52 weeks.
While the Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC)-owned Monymusk and Frome sugar factories are now ready to supply electricity to the national power grid, their delivery of the service is being held back by procedural matters, including the need for an operational licence.
“We have made some progress, but we still have some way to go in our discussions with the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) regarding a licence and a power-purchase agreement,” Delroy Armstrong, a senior assistant to the CEO of the PCSC, told The Gleaner yesterday.
While the Government has been quite vocal in stating a desire to see more private suppliers start selling electricity to the national grid, it would appear the PCSC, which is a subsidiary of the Chinese COMPLANT group, has been in a state of readiness for quite some time.
“I cannot give you the numbers right now, but we have realised significant savings from this investment. It has allowed us to become self-sufficient to the point that we have excess energy that we are now offering to sell to the national grid,” said Armstrong, in explaining the situation at Monymusk and Frome.
However, despite the state of readiness of the two factories, Armstrong was not able to say how soon they will begin to supply electricity to the national grid. In fact, he thinks it might not be anytime soon.
“If we get permission and come to an agreement with JPS, there will be other infrastructure that we will have to put in place, so it is not safe for me to give you a timeline for this to be a reality,” said Armstrong.
As part of its drive towards efficiency, the PCSC installed new 75-ton boilers at its Monymusk and Frome facilities. It has also installed two generators that produce 10 and five megawatts, respectively, at each location.
The energy being produced by the factories comes from bagasse, which is the fibrous matter that remains after sugar cane is crushed to extract juice, and is considered to be a biofuel. It is also frequently used as a primary fuel source for sugar mills. When burnt in quantity, it produces sufficient heat energy to supply all the needs of a typical sugar mill, with energy to spare.
The PCSC has been pushing for at least five per cent of off-season bagasse-based energy to be passed on to the national grid and projects that, making use of the process after the sugar season, the 10-megawatt generator could be used to develop bagasse into fuel within the next three years.
The JPP workers claim that they are being unfairly treated by officials of the company.
“Last week they made 15 workers at the company redundant and we hear there are plans to relieve more workers,” one protesting worker said.
The worker was one of several placard-bearing protestors who threatened that protest action will continue until they are addressed by management of the company.
Debbie-Ann Wright, News Editor – Radio
The National Water Commission (NWC) is advising that frequent fluctuations in the power supply to the Tulloch Springs/Rio Cobre Water Supply System is affecting service to customers in Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine.
The company says the power supply interruptions have worsened the impact of the prolonged drought.
It says the mechanical failure at one of the sources has resulted in a shortfall of more than 3 million gallons of water each day on the Tulloch Springs/Rio Cobre Water Supply System.
It says some customers in Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine either have no water, intermittent supply or are experiencing low water pressure.
The NWC says the problem has been reported to the Jamaica Public Service and work is being done to return to normal operation in the shortest possible time.