WINDS OF CHANGE

Jamaica 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | REVIEW

Legislative reforms coupled with the government's 2030 energy policy mean Jamaica's green energy sector is poised to have a considerable impact on the island's economy.

In 2009 Jamaica announced a 20-year energy policy that put sustainable energy as a top priority. Unlike nearly all other Caribbean nations, Jamaica has a sizeable land mass, which will allow it to utilize a variety of renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind, and even hydro. The energy policy was designed to ensure that the island nation has a diversified, efficient, and modern energy sector that can compete on a global scale. The comprehensive plan set out a number of goals, which included security through diversification, revamping, and modernizing the island's energy infrastructure; increasing energy efficiency and conservation; improving regulation; developing the country's own renewable industries like solar and wind; as well as turning the government and its agencies into models and leaders of green energy.

In November 2017, the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology announced that it was aiming to have the country on 30% renewable energy by 2030. The government hopes to restructure industry and the public to accommodate the transformation. At the end of 2017, the country's total renewable energy production stood at 187MW. In 2018, the country will see at least 63 additional MW from new solar and wind projects.
Jamaica has a score of new projects that have either recently gone live or will in the next year. One such project has been taken up by Eight Rivers Energy. Ground has already broke on the USD60 million project in Paradise Park in Westmoreland, and it is expected to generate some 37MW. The project is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2018 and will be the island's largest photovoltaic (PV) plant. The largest completed PV plant is the 27-MW Content Solar plant, built mostly by Sofos, with which TBY held an exclusive interview with. The plant sends energy back to the grid. Sofos also built the country's largest rooftop PV project, which sits atop the Grand Palladium Hotel.
The government has remained steadfast in its support of a green economy, despite the administration, and has actively pushed legislative reforms. The declining price of power produced by solar panels makes it competitive with fossil fuel, which the government subsidizes. While some believe the country's renewable energy goal of 30% by 2030 is low, many in the industry agree baby steps are needed, such as Earl Barrett, the Managing Director of Wington Windfarm, with whom TBY sat down to discuss the nature of reforms.
Barret emphasized the importance of time-line deliverables and noted that, by setting goals slowly, the country was seeking to avoid situations like what happened in Germany, where the country only stopped feeding the industry tariffs when the market started to overheat. While the market is far from overheating in Jamaica, the government and several industry leaders remain confident that renewable energy will grow to occupy a considerable role in the country's energy makeup.
Despite the progress in some areas, other areas still need reforms. For example, the net billing process is not only tedious but can be high as well. In some cases, fees can add up to 20% of a project, whereas in the US, fees for a similar project would only amount to 5%. A reduced and simplified fee system would not only help the country achieve its energy goals, but would make the market less restrictive. The government also lacks adequate financing schemes; currently, only big businesses or wealthy households can afford to put up panels. There are few incentives for switching to solar.
Overall, many see the future of green energy and a green economy in Jamaica as very positive. While some reforms are still needed at a government level, the country has made vast progress in recent years and has constructed a detailed outline to see its energy policy through for the next decade. With continued hard work, the country is well on its way to be a green economy leader in the region.