Jamaica aiming to boost alternative energy use

KINGSTON, Jamaica, April 25, 2008 – The Jamaica government is moving to satisfy15 per cent of the country’s energy requirements through renewable sources such as solar, hydro, wind and bio-fuels.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding revealed that government has received proposals for the conversion of waste to energy and said his administration was developing a policy framework to govern this, taking into account appropriate environmental safeguards.

In addition, he said, the upgrade of the Petrojam refinery, which is due to commence next year, will enable the use of petroleum coke to generate 100 megawatts of electricity by 2012.

Petroleum coke is a fuel produced using the byproducts of the petroleum refining process, a hard substance that is similar to coal.

Mr Golding however noted that the primary sources of alternative energy would be natural gas and coal.

Alumina companies here are the largest users of imported oil and some alumina interests have been considering the use of coal with the possibility that surplus power would be available for sale to the national grid – a move that Mr Golding said would be beneficial.

“We are assured of long-term availability of coal from Colombia. The government would be supportive of such a decision provided the appropriate technology is in place to safeguard the environment,” he said.

Last month, a technical team from Venezuela was in the island to discuss a long-term contract for the supply of natural gas to Jamaica. Venezuela has the second largest reserve of natural gas in the Western Hemisphere and is developing the facilities to extract it.

Meantime, the government has established an Energy Conservation Unit to coordinate an effort across all ministries and agencies to reduce energy consumption by 15 per cent this year.

Other initiatives being undertaken to reduce energy consumption include the decision to apply a lower rate of duty on diesel-engine vehicles and the inclusion of mandatory stipulations for energy efficiency in the National Building Code.

The Ministry of Energy, Mining and Telecommunications has also developed as an addendum to the National Energy Policy which is now before Cabinet and will be tabled in Parliament shortly.

“In order to encourage and facilitate these energy-saving initiatives, the Development Bank of Jamaica will be making available J$1 billion (US$14 million) in loans to finance projects based on renewable energy or designed to improve energy efficiency,” the prime minister noted.

He said these loans will be disbursed through approved financial institutions such as commercial banks, merchant banks, and small-business-friendly institutions such as credit unions, PC banks, and micro-financing institutions.