Tag Archive | alternative energy

Jamaica’s Climate Change Fight Fuels Investments in Renewables

by Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by IPS on January  18, 2016
By year’s end, Jamaica will add 115 mega watts (MW) of renewable capacity to the power grid, in its quest to reduce energy costs and diversify the energy mix in electricity generation to 30 per cent by 2030.

With 90 per cent of its electricity coming from fossil fuels, the government is committed to reducing the country’s carbon emissions by increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewables from 9 per cent now, to 15 per cent by 2020.

Junior Minister Julian Robinson told IPS via email, a National Energy Policy is guiding actions to cut costs and comply with the international agreements to reduce carbon emissions; among them are plans to reduce the amount of electricity generated from petroleum from 95 to 30 per cent.

Reliance on fossil fuels is also costing the country in terms of high local pollution, healthcare costs and its contribution to global climate change. According to Jamaica’s 2nd National Report to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC,) in 2000, the energy sector accounted for 86 per cent of the 9,532 Giga-grams (Gg) of carbon dioxide emissions, up 1,114 Gg over 1994.

And according to business leaders, the high energy cost is a major barrier to the country’s economic development and is a leading cause of business failure in the country. At 0.40 cents per kilowatt-hour, Jamaicans pay one of the highest rates for electricity in the region.

Jamaica's electricity generation systrms and grid will require significant upgrades and expansion. Photo Credit: Zadie Neufville

Jamaica’s electricity generation systrms and grid will require significant upgrades and expansion. Photo Credit: Zadie Neufville

In 2011, 1.48 billion dollars or 15 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was spent on petroleum imports. Even with oil prices currently hovering at an all-time low of below 34 dollars per barrel, a falling Jamaican dollar, the possibility of higher petroleum prices and as much as 22.3 per cent generation and distribution losses (at 2011 estimates) mean the country is unlikely to divert from the course set by the energy policy.

Estimates are that 10 medium-sized wind farms producing 60MW each, could supply the energy needs of more than half of the island. So in 2015, several companies were invited to bid for a chance to help the country reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

More than 200 million dollars were invested to bring a mix of wind and solar projects online. The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the agency responsible for overseeing the operations of utility companies, approved 80MW of additional capacity by way of Blue Mountains Renewables’ (BMR) 36.3 MW wind farm and a 24.4 MW addition to the state-owned Wigton wind farm.

To complete the 115 MW of renewable energy commissioned in 2015, Content Solar Limited (CSL) -a Jamaican subsidiary of the Florida based WRB Enterprises – was approved and began construction of a 20 megawatt solar photovoltaic facility, which president Robert Blenker noted will supply enough electricity to power 20,000 homes.

Another 37 MW was tendered at the end of the year, said Robinson who sits in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Energy and Mining.

According to Blenker, “Content Solar will be the largest project of its kind in the Caribbean, delivering clean and reliable renewable energy at a stable price to Jamaica and will displace more than 3 million gallons of fossil fuel currently burned each year.”

Content’s plan falls in line with commitments to make electricity cheaper and more efficient under the new electricity act, Robinson said. The act “provides the framework to maximise efficiencies by the provision of a dispatcher (JPS) that will dispatch the cheapest source of electricity to the end user, ” he added.

There is significant losses in the energy generated because of inefficient distribution systems.

There is significant losses in the energy generated because of inefficient distribution systems.

In addition, the minister noted the government has introduced net billing so that householders who produce excess energy could sell back to the grid. He also pointed out that a “30 per cent reduction in the cost of solar panels” and an improvement in technology that makes wind and solar technologies more efficient will ensure that investments in renewables continue even as the price of oil falls.

WorldWatch Institute’s Sustainable Energy Roadmap for Jamaica 2013 stated that increasing the number of households using solar water heaters, could save an additional 75 to 100 GWh of electricity per year. It concluded that there was a need to create a “smooth transition” to a sustainable and economically viable energy system.

Experts say that by making the switch to an electricity system based mainly on renewables could save the country as much as 12.5 billion dollars by 2030, freeing up much needed cash for public and social spending in a country that according to 2012 estimates, spends around 54 per cent of its earnings on debt servicing.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

If Jamaica transitioned to an electricity system powered almost exclusively by renewables, Jamaica could reduce the average cost of electricity by 67 per cent when compared to 2010 by 2030 the Worldwatch report said.

The transition, could create up to 4,000 new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector to the equivalent of 0.7 million tons of CO2-annually. Accelerating the process would require high levels of up-front investments but so far, Jamaica has been lucky, since the bulk of the investments have come from investor, private sector and donor funding.

Alexander Ochs, Worldwatch’s Director of Climate and Energy confirmed the report’s findings, noting that Jamaica’s “entire electricity demand could be met with renewable resources” from solar and wind energy.

The public sector has already begun its own programme of retrofitting and energy reduction strategies that is said to be saving millions of dollar in expenditure at government agencies and institutions.

Worldwatch noted that investments of roughly 6 billion dollars could increase the contribution of renewables to Jamaica’s electricity production to 93 per cent by 2030, while significantly slashing energy costs.

So armed with feasibility studies that points to the possibility for hydropower development along six rivers, Robinson is setting his sights on the road ahead, and another 26MW of power in the very near future.


Could CARICOM Oil Deal With Venezuela Hamper Caribbean COP21 Negotiations?

By Zadie Neufville
The following article was published by SciDev (in Spanish) on November 11, 2015

On the eve of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), the Caribbean climate negotiators are pushing forward with negotiation plans for 1.5 degrees Celsius (until 2100) to prevent inundation of some, and extensive infrastructural damage in other CARICOM states.

The campaign ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’, to raise awareness about the region’s vulnerability to Climate Change is a good example. The campaign aims to raise awareness to the effects of Climate Change while building momentum for the region’s negotiating position ahead of the meeting.

PetrojamD20060815RB“The (Caribbean) region is still campaigning for 1.5 degrees Celsius (until 2100) with the understanding that other negotiators including the European Union are looking at 2.0 degrees,” Devon Gardner, head of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Energy Unit has said.

However, the cheap oil and additional benefits from the 10- year old PetroCarib deal between Venezuela and CARICOM, could complicate the negotiations.

The deal would be strengthened with a promise of new economic benefits to aid food security, assist with health care and agricultural development under a new Caribbean Economic Development Zone, announced in Jamaica on September 6 by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Alexander Ochs, WorldWatch Institute’s Director of Climate and Energy agreed that the deal could be a hindrance for investments in domestic renewable energy, but said to SciDev: “Caribbean governments are increasingly aware of the enormous financial, environmental and social costs associated with continued dependence on fossil fuels”.

The United States, European Union and Canada are investing millions to help the regional governments meet their obligations to provide clean energy for their citizens.

On October 28, CARICOM in collaboration with the WorldWatch Institute launched the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment as well as the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency as part of its regional energy policy. The CARICOM Secretariat in 2013 promised to make renewables 48 percent of electricity generation by 2027.

“They (CARICOM) have a strong incentive to demonstrate to other countries that it is possible to reduce climate-altering emissions quickly,” Ochs said in a press release to mark the launch.

Gardner, also the Secretariat’s Program Manager for Energy, said the Roadmap’s assessments would guide the ‘strategy for building resilient energy systems within the region’.

“Even if the problem of global warming did not exist, and the burning of fossil fuels did not result in extensive local air and water pollution, CARICOM would still have to mandate to transition away from these fuels as swiftly as possible for reasons of social opportunity, economic competitiveness and national security,” Ochs said.

CARICOM represents 15 member states and 17 million residents

1.5 to Stay Alive Video:

Caribe: acuerdo petrolero complica negociaciones COP21

By Zadie Neufville

[KINGSTON] En vísperas de la COP21, los negociadores climáticos del Caribe realizan esfuerzos para llegar a 1.5 grados Celsius de temperatura (hasta 2100), única forma de prevenir inundaciones en algunos países de la región y graves daños  a la infraestructura de otros.

La campaña “1.5 para sobrevivir”, para crear conciencia sobre la vulnerabilidad de la región al cambio climático, es un ejemplo. Su objetivo es sensibilizar a la sociedad sobre los efectos del cambio climático, mientras se impulsa la posición negociadora de la región antes de la reunión mundial.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

“La región (del Caribe) sigue en campaña para llegar a 1.5 grados Celsius de temperatura (hasta 2100) en el entendimiento que otros negociadores como la Unión Europea están buscando llegar a 2 grados”, comenta Devon Gardner, jefe de la Unidad de Energía de la Comunidad del Caribe (CARICOM).

“Incluso si el problema del calentamiento global no existiese, la CARICOM tendría que obligar a realizar la transición de combustibles (fósiles) tan rápidamente como sea posible”

Alexander Ochs, Instituto WorldWatch

Sin embargo, el petróleo barato y otros beneficios adicionales del acuerdo petrolero de 10 años entre Venezuela y la CARICOM podrían complicar las negociaciones.

El acuerdo fue fortalecido con la promesa de nuevos beneficios económicos de ayuda a la seguridad alimentaria, cuidado de la salud y desarrollo agrícola bajo una nueva Zona de Desarrollo Económico del Caribe anunciada en Jamaica el 6 de setiembre por el presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Alexander Ochs, Director de Clima y Energía del Instituto WorldWatch cree que el acuerdo podría ser un obstáculo para las inversiones en energías renovables domésticas, pero añade: “los gobiernos del Caribe cada vez están más conscientes de los enormes costos financieros, ambientales y sociales asociados a la continua dependencia de los combustibles fósiles”.

Los Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea y Canadá están invirtiendo varios millones para ayudar a los gobiernos caribeños a cumplir sus metas de proveer energía limpia a sus ciudadanos.

El 28 de octubre, CARICOM y el Instituto WorldWatch lanzaron la línea base y evaluación de la Hoja de Ruta y Estrategia de Energía Sostenible del Caribe (C-SRMS en inglés), y el Centro Caribeño de Energías Renovables y Eficiencia Energética, como parte de su política energética regional. El Secretariado de CARICOM en 2013 prometió convertir a renovable el 48 por ciento de la generación eléctrica para 2027.

Gardner, quien también es Gerente de Energía del Secretariado, dice que la evaluación de la hoja de ruta guiará la “estrategia para crear sistemas de energía resilientes en la región”.

“Incluso si el problema del calentamiento global no existiese, y la quema de combustibles fósiles no diera lugar a la contaminación extensa del aire y el agua locales, la CARICOM tendría que obligar a realizar la transición de esos combustibles tan rápidamente como sea posible por razones de oportunidad social, competitividad económica y seguridad nacional”, dice Ochs a SciDev.Net.

CARICOM representa 15 estados miembros y 17 millones de habitantes.


Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en SciDev.Net. Lea la versión original aquí.

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Jamaica apuesta por energías renovables

This article was originally published by SciDev.com on August 3, 2015

By Zadie Neufville

[KINGSTON] Jamaica está invirtiendo US$200 millones para que el 30 por ciento de su energía sea renovable en 2030, añadiendo 115 megawatts (MW) a su capacidad actual de renovables.


Powerlines in one Jamaican community

Content Solar Limited (CSL) —subsidiaria jamaiquina de la empresa WRB— está construyendo una instalación solar fotovoltáica de 20 megawatts que, según el presidente Robert Blenker, abastecerá a 20 mil hogares y comenzará a operar el próximo año.“Content Solar será el proyecto más grande de su tipo en el Caribe, distribuirá energía renovable limpia y fiable a precios estables y evitará usar más de 3 millones de galones de combustible fósil que actualmente son quemados cada año”, dijo Blenker durante la ceremonia inaugural (9 de julio).

“Debería llevarse a cabo investigación adicional para entender y comunicar mejor los riesgos económicos que los combustibles fósiles tienen para el país”.

Alexander Ochs, WorldWatch

Según el II Informe Nacional de Jamaica a la Convención Marco de Cambio Climático (UNFCC), el sector energético representó 86 por ciento de los 9.532 gigagramos (Gg) de emisiones de dióxido de carbono en 2000, 1.114 Gg más que en 1994. El documento incluyó la Política Nacional de Energía para reducir de 95 a 30 por ciento la electricidad generada del petróleo, reducir los costos de combustibles y las emisiones.

El noventa por ciento de la electricidad distribuida por el Servicio Público de Jamaica proviene de petróleo importado. El gobierno espera incrementar a 15 por ciento las renovables  para 2020. Ahora es de 9 por ciento. Nueve de cada diez hogares jamaiquinos tienen acceso a electricidad actualmente, aunque el costo es demasiado caro para muchos.

Los 20 MW de CSL se sumarán a los 36.6 MW del parque eólico Blue Mountains Renewables, y a los 24.4 MW del parque estatal eólico Wigton, con lo cual se superará la meta de 80 MW de capacidad adicional de renovables prevista para este año por la Oficina de Regulación de Utilidades.

Julian Robinson, ministro de Estado de Jamaica para la Ciencia, Tecnología, Energía y Minas, dice a SciDev.Net que próximamente se licitarán otros 37 MW más. Añade que las tecnologías mejoradas incrementarán la eficiencia y reducirán los costos.

La hoja de ruta 2013 del Instituto de Energías Renovables WorldWatch señalaba que solo aumentando el número de hogares que usan calentadores solares de agua se podría ahorrar entre 75 a 100 GW/hora de electricidad anualmente. Y concluía que existe la necesidad de crear una “transición sin problemas” a un sistema de energía sostenible y económicamente viable.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Alexander Ochs, director de Clima y Energía de Worldwatch dice que también “debería llevarse a cabo investigación adicional para entender y comunicar mejor los riesgos económicos que los combustibles fósiles tienen para el país”.

“Jamaica tiene un excelente potencial de energías renovables, especialmente solar, eólica y biocombustibles”, asevera. Añade que Alemania, líder mundial en energía solar posee menos de la mitad de potencial solar por metro cuadrado que Jamaica.

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en SciDev.Net. Lea la versión original aquí.


High Oil Costs Drive Jamaica’s Clean Energy Agenda

This article was published by IPS on April 30.
A growing appetite for oil and some of the Caribbean region’s highest electricity rates and petroleum prices are driving Jamaica’s thrust toward clean energy alternatives.

This country of 2.7 million people now spends more than it earns on imported oil.

Between January and June 2011, Jamaica spent 1.48 billion dollars on oil imports, while export earnings for January to September 2011 were 1.3 billion.

In the words of environmentalists, the situation is increasing the nation’s vulnerability to external shocks and putting pressure on the local environment.

Most of the island’s electrical installations lie inside the 10-metre vulnerability zone that experts say will be impacted by sea level rise due to climate change. The increasing demand for electricity is also increasing Jamaica’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Thinking outside the grid

Experts have described Jamaica’s economy as “highly energy inefficient” because 95 percent of the island’s energy needs comes from imported petroleum. Electricity generation uses 23 percent of oil imports, in part because of ageing equipment, theft and inefficiencies in the distribution system.

According to the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, the inefficiencies are the result of the high cost of energy conversion and high transmission and distribution losses. Other contributing factors include the demands of the bauxite and alumina industry.

“We are not producing enough and at the present rate we will be borrowing more just to pay for oil,” said Northern Caribbean University lecturer Dr. Vincent Wright.

The World Bank validated the complaints of the local business community when it identified high energy costs as one of the main hindrances to economic growth. Electricity rates have increased by 135 percent in 10 years, outpacing the annual economic growth rate of about one percent per annum over the same period.

Even though more than nine in 10 Jamaican households have access to electricity, soaring rates have made the commodity too expensive for many. So in addition to high levels of theft, reports are that electricity usage has fallen because people are cutting back.

Taxi driver John Thompson has opted to cut back on luxuries like the use of his washing machine.

“We can’t afford to pay light bill so we turn off the fridge at nights, turn off the lights and now the wife wash mainly by hand,” he said.

In a bid to increase the use of alternative energy and cut spending on oil, government changed the rules. In November 2011, the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) announced that individuals could generate their own electricity from alterative energy sources and sell the excess energy to the local electricity supplier.

So far, 10 applications have been made to sell excess power, the head of communications at OUR Michael Bryce told IPS.

“The Electric Lighting Act empowers the minister to issue licenses to persons wishing to supply electricity for any public or private purpose. Persons wishing to sell electricity must therefore first obtain a licence from the minister before their facility can be connected to the national grid,” he explained.

Ambitious plan or “pipe dream”?

Pressured by the need to cut spending and cushion the effects of spiraling oil prices, Minister of Energy, Science and Technology Phillip Paulwell in January promised to reduce electricity rates by up to 50 percent over the next four years.

Technocrats have described the minister’s plan as a “pipe dream”, but Paulwell is undaunted. He is pushing ahead with plans that he hopes will slash oil imports by 60 percent.

He also hopes to boost the contribution of alternative fuels to electricity generation from the 20 percent committed to in the country’s 2009 energy policy to 30 percent by 2030.

Wright is among those who see the minister’s vision as “extremely difficult” to realise.

“It is going to take a lot of public education, investment in research and the political will (just) to achieve the 20 percent. There must also be investments in technology to automate businesses, the public and private sectors must also become energy efficient,” said Wright, who heads the Natural and Applied Sciences College at the university.

There is significant losses in the energy generated because of inefficient distribution systems. Gleaner photo

Other strategies have included a National Energy Policy, several sub- policies and programmes to guide the government’s goal of “a modern and efficient energy sector that does not harm the natural environment”.

Since 2008, E10 gasoline, a blend of 10 percent sugarcane ethanol and 90 percent petroleum, has been sold at service stations island-wide.

Harnessing wind and water

And the state-owned Wigton Wind Farm has added more than 40 megawatts of generating capacity to the grid. This represents 2.6 percent of the island’s electricity generation and is enough to serve 50,000 homes per month.

“Wigton is helping the country to reduce its ecological footprint by reducing emissions,” said Nicole O’Reggio, head of pollution control in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

The wind farm’s 32 turbines are expected to reduce emissions by an estimated 85,000 tonnes a year, offsetting some 60,000 barrels of oil per year. In the five months between April and August 2011, Wigton shaved 2.7 million dollars from the oil bill.

Jamaica uses 77,000 barrels of oil a day.

The region’s first designated Clean Development project, Wigton also benefits from a carbon credit trading arrangement with the Netherlands, O’Reggio told IPS.

There are already independent suppliers producing electricity at lower rates than the sole distributor the Jamaica Public Service (JPS).

And faced with legal challenges to its supply monopoly from an increasingly disgruntled customer base, the company has begun diversifying its generation. Nine hydroelectricity generators and a wind farm have been added to its 840 megawatts of capacity in recent years.

The company is also installing another two hydropower stations and was recently given permission to build a 360-megawatt combined-cycle to be powered by liquid natural gas. The new plant is scheduled for completion by 2014 and according to the JPS, will cut electricity costs by between 31 and 45 percent.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

There is consensus that Jamaica’s alternative energy potential is immense, but how to exploit it may prove challenging to a cash- strapped government. And meeting the targets could be problematic.

According to Wright, Jamaica can meet its targets if there is government commitment and “incentives for the installation of alternative energy systems, improved use of technology, more efficient use of energy by all Jamaicans as well as good conservation policies.”

Even as many agree that reducing the cost of energy should go a long way to boost Jamaica’s productivity, some say that Paulwell’s plan won’t work.

“Until we can do something about fuel, I don’t see any action that can be taken to produce that kind of energy reduction in the cost to consumers that the minister speaks about,” Winston Hay, a former head of the Office of Utilities Regulation, told journalists at a recent Gleaner Forum

To make it work, many experts agree that there must be a drastic reduction in the price of fuel. The government must also sell its plans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since the removal of duties from alternative energy devices will cost Jamaica much-needed tax revenue and the conversion of street lamps will increase government spending.

But despite the challenges, Worldwatch noted, “Jamaica is in an enviable position because it has the potential to move quickly from being an oil-dependent country to a renewable energy-independent country.”

*This article is one of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.