REDUCE, REUSE, REPLENISH

Jamaica 2018 | ENERGY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Winston Watson, Group General Manager of Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), on keeping a hand in both green and black energy, helping the government reach its 2030 Energy Vision targets, and educating people on the importance of conservation.

Winston Watson
BIOGRAPHY
Winston Watson has more than 25 years of experience in senior management in firms in Barbados, Canada, and Jamaica. In 2000, he was appointed General Manager of Petrojam Limited, Jamaica’s national oil refinery. After 13 years in that post, he was promoted to Group General Manager of PCJ, Petrojam’s parent company. He now has responsibility for the entire PCJ Group of Companies, including Petrojam, Wigton Windfarm Limited, Petrojam Ethanol Limited (PEL), and Jamaica Aircraft Refuelling Services Limited (JARS). Watson holds a BSc in engineering and an MBA from the University of the West Indies as well as a master’s in engineering from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

What have been your advancements so far toward Vision 2030?

The Ministry of Energy and the government of Jamaica are implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to achieve certain energy targets by 2030. PCJ is the energy-implementing arm of the government, and we have interests in a wide cross-section of the energy sector. This arm begins with refining, where we have 51% ownership of the Petrojam refinery, 100% ownership of Wigton Windfarm, 100% ownership in the biofuels company Petrojam Ethanol Limited, and other interests in the retail sector, such as Jamaica Aircraft Refuelling Service, one of our joint venture companies. In addition to refining, PCJ is involved in oil and gas exploration. While we are going green on one side, we believe fossil fuels still have some ways to go. We have embarked on several energy efficiency and conservation programs, both with the government and other institutions. We are working with the Inter-American Development Bank, the UN Development Program, and the Ministry of Energy itself. The intention is to reduce our generation from fossil fuels as well as improve our use of renewable energies such as wind and hydro. In a nutshell, our goal is to assist the government in achieving the 2030 Energy Vision. Hopefully, this diversification will result in a reduction of energy costs in Jamaica. We would like to see an improvement of use and reduction of greenhouse gases as well. In recent years, we have done several projects that highlight our success in reaching these goals. Wigton Windfarm has expanded into the largest wind energy facility in the English-speaking region of the Caribbean with just under 63MW of wind energy, a substantial amount. Within PCJ itself, we have completed several energy retrofit programs for hospitals, schools, and government buildings that include installing PV panels and replacing inefficient light bulbs and AC systems with more efficient units.

Where do you see potential for renewable energy in Jamaica?

We have abundant sunlight, so solar has great potential. The difficulty is that we do not have the landmass to address wide-scale solar. We have to balance solar and wind since we also have great wind potential. We are looking at the possibility of doing offshore wind as well, though that is in the preliminary stages at the moment. My personal view is that we have to look at diversification more to ensure we will have a little bit of everything and not be solely dependent on one source.

Could you go into more detail regarding your education and awareness programs?

We have fairly extensive energy awareness programs since public education on all energy matters is one of our priorities, especially with youth. Our main vehicle for reaching young people is our Schools Energy Program, where we talk about conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. We try to explain the national energy challenges and teach them about the importance of efficiency and conservation. This started off with 12 schools and has now expanded to 85. We hold seminars for the students and do tours of energy-producing entities like the Petrojam refinery, Wigton Windfarm, and the JPS hydro plant. We also take them to entities that have incorporated renewable energy into their operations. These include the new Digicel building, which is highly energy efficient; the Wisynco factory, where the warehouse has an incredible solar operation; and the Grand Palladium Hotel. We also have poster, essay, and science competitions, with a grant of USD4,000 for the winning school to implement a project designed by students. We also do PR campaigns for the general population and go to expos, trade shows, seminars, and lecture series seeking opportunities to engage with the public to push our message of conservation and energy efficiency.

What is the potential for biofuels in Jamaica?

The biggest opportunity is in the use of gas from sugarcane as well as biofuels and biodiesel from castor oil. Jamaican castor oil is renowned worldwide, and JAMPRO is pushing more production in that area.