By TBY | Jamaica | May 17, 2018
As part of Vision 2030, the National Energy Policy plans to create a “modern, efficient, diversified, and environmentally sustainable energy sector.“ Currently, Jamaica sources more than 85% of its electricity […]
As part of Vision 2030, the National Energy Policy plans to create a “modern, efficient, diversified, and environmentally sustainable energy sector.“ Currently, Jamaica sources more than 85% of its electricity from petroleum-based power plants. Given that Jamaica does not currently extract any oil, the fuel is entirely imported.
Jamaica’s future depends on attaining energy security through more sustainable and cost effective solutions. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, the total cost for mineral fuels in 2016 amounted to USD934.9 million, which represents a significant environmental and economic cost. Indeed, households and the industry are harmed by relatively high energy prices, representing a competitive disadvantage in international markets.
This new policy sets a 30% share of energy from renewables by 2030 and defines energy infrastructure, efficiency, and regulatory frameworks as key areas to improve. For its scale and continued development, Wigton wind farm, a subsidiary of the government-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) established in 2004, is perhaps the biggest success in Jamaica’s renewable energy matrix thus far. Since the commissioning of an additional 24MW in 2016, Wigton wind farm produces about 7.5%, or 62MW, of the total energy capacity in Jamaica and operates a newly constructed laboratory and training center.
In 2016, Content Solar launched a 20-MW solar power plant. WRB Enterprises won the bid for the Content Solar project and acquired USD62 million in financing for the project from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the US’ Development Finance Institution. According to WRB Enterprises, the plant will power more than 20,000 homes under a 20-year PPA with Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS). It is the country’s first utility-scale solar plant, and WRB Enterprises praised Content Solar as the first company in the Caribbean to provide reliable, cost-effective renewable energy.
OPIC is helping to finance other renewable energy projects on the island including BMR Energy LLC’s 36-MW wind farm. The project includes 11 turbines financed by OPIC, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and IFC-Canada. Like Content Solar’s photovoltaic plant, power from the BMR Jamaica Wind Project is sold to JPS through a PPA in efforts to diversify JPS’s power sources away from oil.
A USD30-million efficiency initiative was also negotiated under the Energy Management and Efficiency Program, supported by the Inter-American Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency. The program will manage energy audits and improve energy efficiencies in high-energy consuming public institutions and in the transport sector.
Even without subsidies from the government and despite the sharp decline in oil prices in recent years, renewable energies have become competitive in Jamaica. Excess solar energy can be returned to the grid through net billing, and hydropower, biofuels, and energy from waste should experience significant development in the coming years. Sugar cane, a product with a complicated, 300-year history in Jamaica, is finding new purpose as a cost-effective biofuel. PCJ also highlighted the high potential for castor oil as an efficient, environmentally sustainable biofuel.
Dr. Andrew Wheatley, Minister of Science, Energy, and Technology, announced that the government would advertise requests for proposals for the supply of an additional 150MW of renewable energy. Among the 150MW, 50MW would be reserved for waste energy, an effective method of waste volume reduction and clean energy generation. The other 100MW could come from wind, solar, and hydro energy. PCJ has already confirmed the commercial viability of 40MW of hydro energy at five river sites. Speaking at the launch of the sustainable energy and climate change master’s program at the University of Technology, Dr. Andrew Wheatley pointed out that in 2016, 13.5% of the electricity coming to the grid was renewable and that Jamaica was ahead of schedule in regard to Vision 2030.