Letters to the Editor

Troubling signs ahead for the energy sector in Jamaica

Thursday, April 04, 2019

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Dear Editor,

In a recent article in the Jamaica Observer, Energy Minister Fayval Williams indicated that the Government is advancing its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which targets 56 per cent electricity generation from wind and solar sources for the national power grid by 2037. Welcome news, of course, but it also leaves many questions unanswered.

Our primary concern is that there is no date given for the completion of the IRP, which has been promised since 2016. This has placed hundreds of millions of dollars of potential energy investments on hold.

However, even more troubling is the way the IRP is being developed.

As an observer to the IRP which was completed in St Lucia, I have noted the very transparent and inclusive approach taken by the team from Rocky Mountain Institute - Carbon War Room (RMI-CWR), who helped to facilitate that process.

It is very important that all parties remain actively engaged throughout the strategic planning in order to ensure final buy-in. This provides all key stakeholders a voice in providing input that factors in strategic decisions about practical roadmaps to realising the country's energy vision.

There has been a stark lack of stakeholder participation, over the past year, in the Jamaican IRP process, which has led to a very high level of discomfort among key organisations.

As the IRP will, among other things, establish the projected electricity demand over a 20-year period, and determine the generation capacity and technologies which will be used to establish agreements, it is vital that the local stakeholder community be actively engaged.

Even with constant requests for updates the stakeholder community has been largely ignored.

In addition, note has been taken of the fact that the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica has advertised for an IRP project manager to join its team in that agency. This poses a very serious conflict of interest which I am sure will be vigorously challenged.

The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica is the parent of Wigton Windfarm, which itself has stated its intention to grow its footprint by constructing solar energy plants and additional wind turbines when the renewable energy tenders.

How can the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica be so actively involved at the management level of the IRP when it is a competitor in the renewable energy space in Jamaica?

Madam Minister, we need for you to be just as transparent in this process as you have been with the Petrojam forensic audit.

Also, on this note of transparency, the country needs to be assured that the appointment of a new general manager at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica will not be mired in party politics.

Our country deserves nothing less than complete transparency and professionalism in the management of our energy sector.

Henry Durban

hdurban19@gmail.com


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