Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Jamaica must capitalise on the availability of renewable energy. He explained that the country would be in a far better position if it could convert naturally occurring forces into energy.
“It is possible for Jamaica to go to approximately 50 per cent of its energy needs provided by alternatives,” Holness declared during a tour of BMR Jamaica Wind Limited in Potsdam, St Elizabeth, on Wednesday.
BMR Jamaica Wind Limited is the builder, owner and operator of Jamaica’s largest privately funded renewable energy project. The 36.3MW wind-generating facility has been in operation since July 1, 2016. At a cost of US$89.9 million, this represents a major investment in the parish of St Elizabeth.
“From a policy perspective, we would much prefer to have more of our energy locally generated, and from that perspective, renewables are very important to us,” said Holness.
He pointed out that there is great potential between the parishes of Manchester and St Elizabeth for an expansion in wind-generating plants and that the significant investment made by BMR Limited is an indication that there can be even greater investment in wind energy in Jamaica.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said that the Government is doing an integrated resource plan which will project what are the country’s future needs. In addition, the plan will incorporate how the country can supply those future needs integrating renewables, in particular wind and solar.
“Of course, the problem with renewables is the intermittency of the supply, and even that can be overcome with battery technology, which has increased and improved, and so I hold a very optimistic view of the future of energy supply in Jamaica. We are now looking at expansion in solar,” added the Prime Minister.
According to Holness, another solar plant will be opened very soon and the Government is also examining waste energy as a solution.
The BMR Jamaica Wind project holds the distinction of being the first project funded in Jamaica by the Overseas Private Investment Company (OPIC). US$62.7 million was provided by OPIC and US$20 million from the International Finance Company (IFC).
The project is the recipient of the OPIC impact award 2016, as well as, the CREF Wind Project of the Year 2017.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the Government will embark on a programme aimed at transforming the collection and management of garbage before the end of the year.
Prime Minister Holness says work is far advanced in examining options for waste-to-energy solutions.
He says the process is being handled by an enterprise team.
Prime Minister Holness was speaking at the LASCO Releaf Environmental Awareness Programme (REAP) Awards Ceremony yesterday in Kingston.
REAP is geared towards helping children become environmentally conscious through fun competition.
The programme incorporates some 120 primary and preparatory schools this year.
Holness says for Jamaica to experience sustainable growth, the practice of protecting the environment for future generations must be embedded in the mindset of children.
He states that the LASCO REAP initiative will add to the national effort in managing waste disposal and protecting the environment.
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.
Holness Ricardo Makyn
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is optimistic that Jamaica will become the hub for gas in the Caribbean and promises that his government will be strategic in its efforts to diversify the country’s energy sector.
“Renewables will have to feature in a far greater way in our energy mix. The falling oil prices give us a window of opportunity to bring in new technology, to bring in new investors,” he said yesterday during an interview with Jamaican journalists at the US Caribbean Central American Energy Summit in Washington, DC. The summit was held at the Department of State.
“The emphasis (will be) on diversification in ensuring that we are the hub that will reduce our exposure to volatility,” he said.
Holness, along with other regional leaders, met with United States Vice President Joseph Biden yesterday morning for a Caribbean Heads of Delegation meeting. He said the exchange has given him some insight into how other countries in the region are using alternative energy for their electricity, water, and transportation sectors.
“I think we will have to look more closely at our transportation sector, particularly the JUTC (Jamaican Urban Transit Company), which are fairly heavy users of oil and heavy fuel, to see how best we can get energy efficiency from diversifying their fuel use,” he said.
The prime minister noted that energy has been a burden for Jamaica for many years, but he believes that several initiatives implemented by Biden and US President Barack Obama over the years have contributed to finding solutions to the problem. Obama reinforced his administration’s commitment to assist the region with exploring clean-energy solutions when he launched the Task Force on US Caribbean and Central American Energy Security during his visit to Jamaica in April 2015. Just a few months prior to the launch of the task force, Biden hosted the first US Caribbean Central American Energy Summit.
The US has provided clean-energy finance for countries such as Jamaica through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the USAID. The US-owned BMR Energy is also currently building a 34-megawatt greenfield wind farm in St Elizabeth valued at US$90 million.
“What we have said at these seminars is that Jamaica is open for investments in the energy sector,” said Holness.
The prime minister said discussions with Biden went very well as they reviewed progress made in the local energy sector last year and discussed plans for this year. He noted that there are some imperatives that the Jamaican population would have to become aware of such as the strong global movement towards clean energy.
“What is clear is that there is great appreciation for what we have done as it relates to our regulations, making it attractive for investments in the energy sector to come to Jamaica,” he said.