Tag: solar

Thanks to smart planning and the power grid’s ever-growing resilience, Monday’s solar eclipse appears to have gone off without a hitch for grid operators and utilities across the country despite the event’s big impact on solar generation.

For example, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) typically relies on a significant amount of solar energy, but CAISO spokesperson Steven Greenlee verifies, “We did not have any reliability issues large or small – things went very smoothly.”

“The California grid and the western Energy Imbalance Market that serves customers in eight western states performed as expected,” explains Greenlee. “While the eclipse ramp-off and back-on were very fast, we were able to manage them and fortunate that there were not major transmission or generation outages. We also got lucky that the weather in California was nice (Bay Area had fog) and temperatures were seasonable, so loads were reasonable as well.”

CAISO has “several years of managing solar (and wind) and its variability,” according to Greenlee. “Often, clouds will obscure a portion of the 10,000 MW of our grid-connected solar resources, which we have to replace with other resource types, so we have built up a strong expertise in managing such events.”

Greenlee says CAISO is still reviewing just how much of its typical 9,000+ GW of solar production was affected during Monday’s eclipse, but he notes, “Hydroelectric and natural gas provided most of the generation needed to ride through the eclipse and loss of solar output in California.”

Meanwhile, PJM Interconnection, the operator of North America’s largest power grid, reports it also ensured reliable power supplies throughout Monday’s solar eclipse.

According to a PJM announcement, the grid operator saw a drop of approximately 520 MW of wholesale solar generation connected to the grid from before the eclipse until the peak of the eclipse. In addition, PJM also estimates that electricity from behind-the-meter solar generation (mostly rooftop solar panels that offset load) decreased by approximately 1,700 MW.

In its announcement, PJM notes it had expected a reduction in power from rooftop panels to result in an increase in electric demand on the grid. However, because of a variety of potential factors, including reduced air conditioning, increased cloud cover and changes in human behavior related to the event, PJM saw a net decrease in demand for electricity of about 5,000 MW throughout the eclipse.

PJM says it will continue to study the impact of the solar eclipse on its system and will integrate lessons learned from event into preparing for the next solar eclipse, predicted to occur in 2024, when the grid is expected to have more solar generation.

Utility company Duke Energy, which has 2,500 MW of solar capacity connected to its system in North Carolina, reports that it lost about 1,700 MW of that capacity during the height of the eclipse.

Nonetheless, Sammy Roberts, Duke Energy’s director of system operations, says, “We were able to balance the Duke Energy system to compensate for the loss of solar power over the eclipse period. Our system reacted as planned, and we were able to reliably and efficiently meet the energy demands of our customers in the Carolinas.”

Elsewhere on the East Coast, Georgia Power held a Facebook Live event during the eclipse and showed real- time production analytics from the utility’s solar research and demonstration project at its headquarters.

John Kraft, spokesperson for Georgia Power, says, “We were glad for the opportunity to help educate customers about our advancements in renewable energy and the part it plays in a diversified energy portfolio.”

According to Kraft, “We have almost 900 MW of solar capacity, including company-owned projects, power purchase agreements, etc. We saw a significant drop in solar production at our small demonstration project at our Atlanta headquarters during the eclipse and expect that solar facilities across the state experienced declines in output, depending on local weather conditions and degree of eclipse darkening.”

However, he adds, “We did not expect and did not have customer outages related to power supply because of the diverse generation mix we employ on our system, including solar, nuclear, natural gas, coal, hydro and other sources. The company was well prepared for this event.”

Georgia Power plans to keep adding solar to its grid after the Georgia Public Service Commission last year approved its 2016 Integrated Resource Plan, which includes the addition of up to 1,600 MW of solar and other renewable energy through 2021.

“An eclipse is a rare event, and one that can be planned for, but it did illustrate the intermittent nature of solar that more commonly occurs with passing clouds, rainy days, at night, etc.,” says Kraft. “Like any power source, solar has benefits and limitations, and when incorporated into a diverse generation mix, as we have done in coordination with the Georgia Public Service Commission, it is an important part of our state’s energy resources.”

Solar Industry

BMW Is Turning Used i3 Batteries Into Home Energy Storage Units


Repurposed batteries could create a new revenue stream for EV customers. But it’s not yet clear how the buyback program will work.

by Julia Pyper
June 21, 2016
BMW is making a major push into the stationary energy storage market.

The German automaker announced that it is turning new and used i3 batteries into energy storage solutions for homes and small businesses. The company unveiled its plans at an electric vehicle symposium in Montreal.

“With a battery storage system electrified by BMW, our customers can take the next step toward a sustainable energy lifestyle. Coupled with the home-charging and solar energy programs, the system enables BMW drivers to embrace holistic sustainability beyond e-mobility,” said Rob Healey, manager of electric vehicle infrastructure for BMW North America, in a statement.

In an interview, Healey added that energy storage fits with BMW’s 360º Electric program, which currently offers customers electric vehicles, charging infrastructure and rooftop solar through a partnership with SolarCity. Through that partnership BMW i owners receive a $1,000 credit toward SolarCity’s home solar offer. BMW’s sustainability package sounds very similar to the type of solution Tesla wants to offer with its proposed acquisition of SolarCity.

“This is really a part of a much bigger puzzle for BMW that we’re putting together as we look out to the future,” said Healey. “We offer customers electric vehicles, we offer customers charging, and we offer customers access to solar panels and producing their own renewable energy. And now, with this next piece, we offer the customer an energy storage solution that fits into the overall picture of sustainability.”

The market-ready product currently uses i3 high-voltage batteries, but can be equipped to incorporate second-life batteries as they become available. There are relatively few of these used batteries on the market today, because the i3, an all-electric city car, has only been on the market since 2013. That will change as the lithium-ion batteries degrade over time and are no longer considered suitable for vehicle use. A repurposed battery can offer “many additional years of service,” according to BMW.

As i3 batteries reach the end of their automotive life, BMW and German-based Beck Automation plan to turn them into plug-and-play energy storage systems by unbolting them from the i3 and installing them in a Beck-designed charging module. The system is sized to fit conveniently in a basement or a garage where it can be used to power electrically operated devices in a home or to charge an electric car.

The energy storage units are equipped with BMW i3’s 22-kilowatt-hour or 33-kilowatt-hour capacity batteries, which are ideally suited to operate appliances and entertainment devices for up to 24 hours. A typical home in the U.S. consumes between 15 and 30 kilowatt-hours of energy per day.

The systems are outfitted with software to determine the optimal time to charge or discharge the system. The BMW storage system also includes a voltage converter and power electronics to manage the energy flow between renewable energy resources, the home and the battery.

“With this system, which integrates seamlessly with charging stations and solar panels, customers can offset peak energy costs and also enjoy the added security of an available backup energy supply during power outages,” according to the BMW press release.

Theoretically, this concept should give i3 drivers a new way to make money from their used cars by creating a market for second-life batteries. However, it’s not yet clear how a battery buyback program would work.

There are also a number of outstanding questions around battery design and cost. Tesla’s 6.4-kilowatt-hour home battery sells to installers for $3,000 and is estimated to retail for around $7,000. Can BMW’s 22-kilowatt-hour used battery get anywhere close to that price?

In addition, the product release timeline has yet to be determined. According to a spokesman, “BMW is currently evaluating a distribution/marketing strategy where pilot programs in the U.S. could start in 2017.”

BMW has been preparing to enter the stationary energy storage market for a number of years. In 2013, the automaker installed a microgrid application at the University of California San Diego using second-life Mini E batteries. In 2014, BMW integrated high-voltage batteries into a stationary storage system in Hamburg for Vattenfall that stores solar power as a buffer for fast-charging stations. In 2015, NextEra signed a contract for the delivery of 20 megawatt-hours of repurposed automotive batteries from the i3 and BMW’s ActiveE test fleet — which BMW claims is the largest contract of its kind in automotive history.

In addition, BMW continues to participate in an energy storage pilot projectwith Pacific Gas & Electric. Under the program, PG&E manages 100 kilowatts of demand from 100 active i3 vehicles and a stationary unit of repurposed BMW Mini E batteries located at BMW’s Mountain View office. The system was designed to test how electric vehicles and second-life batteries can offer reliability services to the grid. Last fall, BMW shared preliminary results showing that the system had delivered on more than two dozen demand response events called by the utility.

According to Cliff Fietzek, manager of connected e-mobility at BMW North America, past experience revealed that it’s very expensive to reconfigure batteries for reuse, which is why BMW developed a plug-and-play solution for it’s home battery. “We don’t have to put any special software in or take modules out and can take advantage of all of the engineering we put into producing the car battery,” he said. “We can use the same heating and cooling system for the car battery and the same safety mechanisms … there is not too much work to be done on the integration side, which saves a lot on cost and increases flexibility.”

However, the company will have to wait to see the results of its home battery pilot programs before really knowing what the cost and return on investment is, he added.

BMW is the latest auto company to get into stationary storage. Tesla has garnered an enormous amount of attention with the launch of its energy storage business and massive battery Gigafactory. Meanwhile, Toyota,General Motors and Nissan are actively testing stationary storage solutions and looking to make larger plays. Daimler/Mercedes-Benz introduced a stationary battery business in Europe last year, and is rumored to be launching a U.S. product this fall.

Green Tech Media

US Solar Market Sets New Record, Installing 7.3GW of Solar PV in 2015
For the first time ever, solar beat out natural-gas capacity additions.

In yet another record-breaking year, the solar industry in the United States installed 7,286 megawatts of solar PV in 2015. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association announced the historic figures today ahead of the March 9 release of the U.S. Solar Market Insight report.

FIGURE: U.S. Solar PV Installations, 2000-2015

For the first time ever, solar beat out natural-gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.5 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in 2015.

Led by California, North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts and New York, the U.S. solar market experienced a year-over-year growth rate of 17 percent. Geographically, the market continues to diversify with 13 states installing more than 100 megawatts each in 2015. States that made major solar strides include Utah, which jumped in the rankings from 23rd to 7th place, and Georgia, which moved from 16th to 8th in the nation.

FIGURE: Ranking States by Annual PV Installations

The residential solar market grew 66 percent year-over-year and, for the first time in history, eclipsed the 2-gigawatt mark. The residential solar segment now represents 29 percent of the entire U.S. solar market — its largest share since 2009.

  • For the fourth year in a row, the non-residential market broke the 1-gigawatt mark, but remained roughly flat year-over-year.
  • The utility-scale sector, the mainstay of the U.S. solar market, grew 6 percent year-over-year and represented more than half of all solar PV installed in 2015.
  • Cumulative U.S. solar PV installations have now topped 25 gigawatts, up from just 2 gigawatts in 2010.

FIGURE: Share of U.S. PV Installations by Segment, 2000-2015

“Without a doubt, 2015 was a monumental year for the U.S. solar industry, and perhaps what’s most amazing is that we’re only getting started,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “Over the next few years, we’re going to see solar continue to reach unprecedented heights as our nation makes a shift toward a carbon-free source of energy that also serves as an economic job-creating engine.”

“The U.S. solar market remains concentrated in key states, with the top 10 states accounting for 87 percent of installed capacity in 2015,” said Shayle Kann, senior vice president of GTM Research. “But growth has been widespread, and 24 of the 35 states that we track saw market growth in 2015.”

On March 9, GTM Research and SEIA will release the complete U.S. Solar Market Insight2015 Year in Review with detailed market analysis and updated forecasts.

Key findings:

  • The U.S. installed 7,286 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2015, the largest total ever and 17 percent above 2014
  • The 7.3 gigawatts installed in 2015 is 8.6 times the capacity installed five years earlier in 2010
  • Residential was once again the fastest-growing sector, installing over 2 gigawatts for the first time and growing 66 percent over 2014
  • Utility solar PV also had a record year with over 4 gigawatts installed, up 6 percent over 2014
  • 110 megawatts (AC) of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity came on-line in late 2015 when SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes project began sending electricity to the grid
  • Non-residential solar was essentially flat for the third year in a row, installing just over 1 gigawatt
  • Cumulative solar PV installations reached over 25 gigawatts by the end of the year, up from just 2 gigawatts at the end of 2010

Greentech Media 

The more efficient the solar panel, the less space used.

Solar giant SunPower announced on Monday that it can now make a solar panel that can convert 22.8% of the sunlight that hits it into electricity. According to SunPower, that’s a new world record.

The efficiency of solar panels is an important metric to both solar companies and to its customers. When panels are more efficient it mean that rooftops can be covered in fewer efficient panels, which use less materials, but that can generate the same amount of energy as more less-efficient panels.

SunPower says its highly efficient panels can generate 70% more energy in the same space over the first 25 years, compared to less efficient panels. Many solar panels are somewhere between 15% and 18% efficient. SunPower and others have been working to boost the efficiency of panels using material science and optics tech innovations.

Solar companies are in a battle to boost the efficiency of their panels and tout new records. SunPower SPWR -5.85% says its 22.8% solar panel was verified by the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Last year, SolarCity claimed that it had started making its own highly efficient panels, with an efficiency that “exceeded 22%,” verified by the Renewable Energy Test Center (which isn’t one of the more commonly used verification labs). But SolarCity’s SCTY -5.92% solar panels were also planned to be made in small volumes on a pilot solar panel manufacturing line in Fremont, Calif.

Creating solar panel efficiency breakthroughs in the lab or on a small scale, is far easier than making those efficient panels in very large volumes. But SunPower says the average efficiency of its solar cells (which make up panels) at the end of last year was close to 23%.

SunPower’s stock was up over 3% in morning trading to $21.84. Oil giant Total owns 66% of the Richmond, Calif.-based SunPower.

Last week SunPower announced fourth quarter and year 2015 earnings. SunPower says it generated $1.58 billion in revenue in 2015, with an annual loss of $299.44 million. The company was profitable on an annual basis in 2014 and 2013.

Check out Fortune’s recent interview with SunPower CEO Tom Werner.


Getty Images

Solar’s threat to the utility industry is deeper than not having to purchase electricity

Now that solar power is reaching prime time, the fossil fuel industry is doing all that it can to stop its growth.

For many years solar was on the periphery, installed by early adopters and helped along by government subsidy. But over the last several years, solar has emphatically become mainstream. It is still growing from a low base, but it is now one of the most preferred sources of new electricity generation. The cost of residential solar have been cut in half since 2010, and utility-scale solar has achieved even greater cost declines.

In 2015, the U.S. saw 16 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity installed, which accounted for two-thirds of the total. Solar alone accounted for about one-third of new capacity last year. Natural gas only captured 25 percent of the newly installed capacity despite several years of incredibly low prices. The banner year for clean energy occurred while 11 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity came offline as old plants were retired amid rising costs and stricter environmental regulation. The clean energy transition is very much underway.


Gov’t oil hedge underwater

In June 2015, the Government of Jamaica booked a hedge transaction to buy six million barrels of oil for delivery 15 months later at a strike price of US$66.74.

The mechanism used in this kind of transaction is called a ‘call option’, which gives the purchaser of the option the right, but not the obligation, to purchase the asset at a specified price the ‘strike price’ within a specified time. A month later, it bought another 15-month futures contract for two million barrels of oil and the average strike price of the two contacts is US$66.53.

We paid about $30 million to Citibank for the privilege of placing this bet on oil prices going higher than our strike price in 15 months.

When these contracts to buy crude oil were booked, prices on the world market was trading at about US$63 a barrel and had rebounded from about US$45 in January 2015. The government placed a bet based on its belief that crude oil prices would continue to rise well above the $66.53 strike price. If that were to happen and oil prices were to increase to, say, US$80-US$90 per barrel, the Government would be in the delightful position of having to pay only about US$66.53 per barrel for oil that would be trading at the much higher spot price on the international commodity market. The Government of Jamaica, senior executives at the Bank of Jamaica, and members of the oversight and technical committees created by the Government to manage the hedges, all seem to have bought into the belief that oil prices would climb higher than US$67 before the expiry date of the options.

The oversight committee is comprised of the financial secretary, Devon Rowe; the governor of the Bank of Jamaica, Brian Wynter; the managing director of the Development Bank of Jamaica, Milverton Reynolds; the managing director the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Winston Watson; and Dr Vincent Lawrence. Mr Watson is known to have experience in oil trading and markets. Only Michael Hewett, an executive at Petrojam, was named as a member of the technical committee.

Wrong direction

One has to believe that the intention of the members of the government-appointed committees and all of those involved in the hedge transaction was a good one to try and protect Jamaica against that time in the 15-month period when oil prices might spike above US$67. While there is still considerable time to the maturity of the call options, right now the bet is not looking good and the best projections are for oil prices to fall even lower than the below-US$30 they traded at this week.

This week, three important financial institutions released projections indicating that oil prices could fall to US$10-US$20 per barrel and stay there for sometime. Goldman Sachs’ projection was at US$20, Morgan Stanley’s was US$20 and Standard Chartered, a bank with strong roots and connections in the Middle East and Asia, projected US$10 a barrel oil.

In the futures trading business, which is where these call options reside, when an option is bought with the expectation that the price of the commodity will increase but the opposite occurs, the option is said to be ‘underwater’. Given that these options were booked with the expectation for oil price to rise above US$66, and they are now heading in the direction of US$20, Jamaica’s call options on oil are seriously underwater.

A better alternative

In November 2014, a public official asked me about hedging because someone had written him an email to encourage Jamaica to hedge oil transactions on the upside, based on a scenario the email writer concocted about the state of affairs in the international oil industry. The public official was aware that I had traded oil futures for many years and had lived in the Middle East for more than two decades. I share below an excerpt from my reply:

“The recommendation needs study because taking a position means the Government and Jamaica will be guessing the direction of the movement of the price of this commodity. The writer makes it sound like making money on these bets (options) is a sure thing. It is not.

“There is always a risk. Suppose we bet on a certain price increase in a specific time frame, which we would have to if we are going to hedge, and prices instead of rising to, say, US$70/bbl from US$50 falls to US$35/bbl during our hedge horizon, we would suffer an important loss depending on the size of the contract. This is what apparently happened to that forward position Jamaica took on that futures contract on aluminium with the Russians and/or Glencore, the debilitating result of which you are very familiar.

“When oil went to US$9/bbl in the 1990s, if you had dared to tell anyone about the US$147 per barrel price which occurred in July 2008 they would have declared you mad. It’s a commodity; any card can play. On review, if the writer sees the prices as going one way, down, and OPEC is ‘dead’, why hedge? Do nothing, stay addicted to imported oil and go for the lovely ride to low-oil-price nirvana.

“The better alternative is to wean ourselves off the 98 per cent dependence on petroleum-based fossil fuels for our energy supplies. We really need to develop and use renewable energy from many sources, including bagasse, garbage, wind, water and solar.”

Aubyn Hill is CEO of Corporate Strategies Ltd and chairman of the Economic Advisory Council of the leader of the opposition.

The Gleaner


The clean-energy boom is about to be transformed. In a surprise move, U.S. lawmakers agreed to extend tax credits for solar and wind for another five years. This will give an unprecedented boost to the industry and change the course of deployment in the U.S.

The extension will add an extra 20 gigawatts of solar power—more than every panel ever installed in the U.S. prior to 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The U.S. was already one of the world’s biggest clean-energy investors. This deal is like adding another America of solar power into the mix.

The wind credit will contribute another 19 gigawatts over five years. Combined, the extensions will spur more than $73 billion of investment and supply enough electricity to power 8 million U.S. homes, according to BNEF.

 “This is massive,” said Ethan Zindler, head of U.S. policy analysis at BNEF. In the short term, the deal will speed up the shift from fossil fuels more than the global climate deal struck this month in Paris and more than Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan that regulates coal plants, Zindler said.
Data Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

This is exactly the sort of bridge the industry needed. The costs of installing wind and solar power have dropped precipitously—by more than 90 percent since the original tax credits took effect—but in most places coal and natural gas are still cheaper than unsubsidized renewables. By the time the new tax credit expires, solar and wind will be the cheapest forms of new electricity in many states across the U.S.

The tax credits, valued at about $25 billion over five years, will drive $38 billion of investment in solar and $35 billion in wind through 2021, according to BNEF. The scale of the new projects will help push costs down further and will stimulate new investment that lasts beyond the extension of the credits.

Data Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Few people in the industry expected a five-year extension. Stocks soared. SolarCity, the biggest rooftop installer, surged 34 percent yesterday. SunEdison, the largest renewable-energy developer, climbed 25 percent, and panelmaker SunPower increased 14 percent.

Congress is expected to vote by the end of this week on the tax credits as part of a broader budget deal that also lifts the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports. Oil producers have lobbied for years to lift the ban, but it isn’t likely to significantly affect either consumption of oil or deployment of renewables. Leaders from both parties reached an agreement on the bill late Tuesday.

The 30 percent solar tax credit was set to expire next year and will now extend through 2019 before tapering to 10 percent in 2022. The wind credit had expired at the end of 2014, and the extension will be retroactively applied from the start of 2015 through 2019, declining in value each year.

Wind power has had an especially tumultuous relationship with U.S. lawmakers, who have kept the industry’s credits alive through a disruptive ping-pong game of short-term extensions every year or two. “You open manufacturing plants and then you close them. And then you open them and you close them,” BNEF’s Zindler said. “It’s economically inefficient. This will give them a good five-year line of sight on what the market will look like, and that’s really important.”


Khan … I would say to the private sector, look at investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The new global climate deal, reached after two weeks of intense negotiations, is a signal to the private sector, local and international, of the need to reassess current investment flows.

Jamaican negotiator Dr Orville Grey said the private sector will be critical, given the stated goal of the new deal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 28C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.58C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

“The private sector will at some point have to take the lead because the technologies that are likely to take us to carbon neutrality will likely come from the private sector and not the public sector, at least as it relates to technology,” Grey, coordinator for adaptation for the Alliance of Small Island States during the negotiations, told The Gleaner.

If the world is to meet the ‘well-below-two’ target, it will require a significant shift in the current high levels of consumption of fossil fuels, including coal and oil, towards renewables such as solar and wind.

Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change and himself a member of the Jamaica delegation to the talks, was in full agreement.

“The private sector is encouraged under this agreement to support the mobilisation of finance to support adaptation and mitigation,” he said.

On Jamaica’s private sector, Khan said: “The State has submitted its intended nationally determined contribution commitment to [reducing greenhouse gas emissions] to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Secretariat. Our commitment is consistent with the goal of our National Energy Policy. I would say to the private sector, look at investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In time, I hope that we will see more entities entering into public-private partnerships.”

A Historic Turning Point

Neither Grey nor Khan is alone in their thinking; international leaders in business have echoed their sentiments.

“The business case for eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050 is irrefutable. Indeed, solving climate change presents the greatest economic and social development opportunity of our time,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, in a release to the media on Saturday.

“The new climate agreement is a historic turning point. Now business can and must innovate to lead the transition to a clean economy. Together, it is our duty as human beings, responsible citizens and business leaders to protect the environment. A transition to a clean and green economy will lift millions out of poverty, and ensure the planet’s health for generations to come,” he added.

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, mirrored his comments.

“This is truly a turning point in human history. We now have the chance to advance the well-being of people everywhere, while creating millions of new jobs and ending our reliance on fossil fuels,” she said in the same release.

“This will help us build a safer, more peaceful world for all. This is exactly what business needs in order to thrive in the long run,” added Huffington.

The Gleaner

Jamaica is to be darkness-free by 2017. Well, almost free of darkness, according to Phillip Paulwell, the energy minister who says the Government is prepared to use solar energy to power houses in remote rural areas that are not currently connected to the grid.

“We expect that, by 2017, some 99.99 per cent of the country will be covered,” Paulwell told The Gleaner yesterday.

At present, 95 per cent of the country is covered, which Paulwell said is due in the main to the role of the Rural Electrification Programme (REP) established in the 1970s.

“We believe that we are in sight of completing the work of REP, based on what we have left to be done. I believe that sometime during this year or the first year during the new term, we will be able to say 99.99 per cent, because you could never get to 100 per cent, has access to electricity,” Paulwell said.

The Government has allocated $374.7 million in this 2015-2016 Budget for the REP to carry out its functions. The target includes the construction of 30 kilometres of pole line extensions in 10 parishes and the wiring of 1,000 houses to facilitate formal contracts with the Jamaica Public Service Company.

Paulwell told The Gleaner yesterday that, by 2017, “we should no longer have REP in the way we do now”, adding that if the Government finds it too challenging to run power lines into communities, it will use solar.

“For those areas that are too far away from the grid, we will be utilising renewable energy. We are going to be putting up solar facilities for the remote areas,” the minister said.

Paulwell said the newly formed National Energy Solutions, the company which is to replace the REP, will be

targeting housing schemes as one area from which it will earn fees for doing installation works.

It is projected that REP will earn $230 million from services this year, and will get another $100 million from the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.

More Work To Do

“In addition to the extensions that we are doing, we will do those most difficult areas using renewables, but thereafter, the focus of REP will be shifted to an energy-service company, and among their main duties will be to explore the possibility of assembling solar PV (photovoltaic) systems in Jamaica and also to assist with dealing with the theft of electricity and the regularisation of those areas where theft is very pronounced. A lot of the houses need to be wired and certified properly; we are going to give them that mandate,” he added.

But even as the Government prepares to flip the switch on the REP, some rural members of parliament believe that the entity still has a bit of work to do.

“From 2007, I have done about five REP projects. I have about five or six pending, plus new ones that have come in that have not been submitted as yet,” West Portland MP Daryl Vaz told The Gleaner. “I have always felt that REP is one of the best government interventions because of the number of people’s lives it impacts.”

Vaz said the five projects implemented cost $12 million, $5 million of which was contributed from his Constituency Development Fund.

Vaz further said that another 11 projects are pending, six of which, the REP said, would require funding of $9 million. The other five are awaiting estimates.

The MP said that this year’s allocation, which is way above the $231 million provided in the current fiscal year, is a drop in the bucket, arguing that when the Jamaica Labour Party formed the administration between 2007 to 2011, there was a major problem finding money to fund projects.

“The demand is so much more than the budgetary allocation. I would love to accept Minister Paulwell’s projection of 2017, but I don’t see it [as] possible. I don’t think it is realistic, unless it is that they have found some money somewhere,” Vaz said.

Paulwell said the projects that are now being done are “remote, very far from the grid”.

“Some years ago, when we did an electricity ceremony to turn on electricity, one project would have 500 customers. But now because of the remoteness of them, for one project you have 10, 15 customers because they are so dispersed in remote areas,” he explained.

But Dorrett Abrahams, who resides in the beachfront community of Albion Heights, which lies between Yallahs, St Thomas, and Bull Bay, St Andrew, said that despite the area being part of a development which began in the 1960s, residents are yet to get electricity.

“There is no electricity there, and we are talking about 2015,” she said. “REP came through and they said the the ground is tough and stony and that it is going to cost a lot of money to carry the electricity and they don’t have any money,” she added.


V3 Solar has come up with an innovative way to solve some heat issues with concentrated PV panels.

images (37)

V3 Solar claims to be able to manufacture solar panels for under