Environment

Report: Money available for renewable energy, but Gov't policy lacking

Friday, November 08, 2013    

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WASHINGTON, DC — The Worldwatch Institute on Wednesday launched its groundbreaking Sustainable Energy Roadmap for Jamaica, a look at the measures that the Jamaican Government can take to transition its electricity sector to one that is socially, environmentally and financially sustainable.

The report — Jamaica Sustainable Energy Roadmap: Pathways to an Affordable, Reliable, Low-Emission Electricity System — is the culmination of years of intensive investigation. It analyses the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment in Jamaica and discusses the social and economic impacts of alternative energy pathways, concluding that a scenario of high renewable penetration can bring significant savings, greater energy security, gains in competitiveness, and many other important benefits to the country.

"Jamaica is paying a colossal price to import polluting and health-threatening fossil fuels, even when it has the best clean energy resources at its doorstep: wind, solar, hydro, and biomass," said Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and a co-author of the study. "The Jamaican government has set a nationwide goal of 20 per cent renewable energy use by 2030; our roadmap will help to realise this goal. What's more, our analysis shows that the bar can and should be set much higher: Jamaica can become a zero-carbon island in a matter of decades, and its people would benefit enormously from such a transition."

Worldwatch collaborated closely on this project with the Government of Jamaica.

"I am very confident that the outcome of this project will enable Jamaica to map, in more precise ways, the additional electricity generation capacity that we seek," said Jamaican Energy Minister Philip Paulwell. "We intend to use the roadmap to determine the next phase of new generation capacity, and it will enable us to be far more efficient than we have in the past."

Jose Maria Figueres, president of the Carbon War Room and former president of Costa Rica, pointed to the broader benefits of the study and Worldwatch's Sustainable Energy Roadmap work.

"This report provides the practical steps that enable us to fast-forward the deployment of renewable energy. With it, we can boost national economies and improve conditions of well-being. [Jamaica] can become a shining example of what the future is all about."

Supported by the International Climate Initiative of the German Ministry of the Environment, the roadmap compares the full societal costs of Jamaica's current electricity sector to the costs of alternative pathways that are based on high shares of domestic renewable energy. The report concludes that Jamaica will benefit economically, socially, and environmentally if it relies more heavily on renewable energy sources and less on fossil fuels.

"This roadmap can make a crucial contribution to addressing Jamaica's single greatest obstacle to economic development: its extremely high cost of electricity," said German Ambassador to Jamaica, Josef Beck.

"If used wisely, the Worldwatch Roadmap can help safeguard Jamaica's economic future at a very critical juncture."

Based on analysis of Jamaica's investment environment, the roadmap suggests regulatory and institutional changes that will be necessary to attract new investments in clean energy solutions. " Worldwatch's Caribbean Programme Manager and a co-author of the study Mark Konold said there is considerable discord among the institutions that need to be sending clear and definitive signals to potential renewable energy investors.

"Jamaica wants to act more ambitiously, and financial institutions are ready to jump in because they see the potential for strong renewable energy investment. But that investment sits on the sidelines waiting for government ministries and regulatory bodies to develop coherent and consistent policy."

Worldwatch also collaborated closely on the project with the country's academic, financial, and civil society sectors, including Dr Ruth Potopsingh, Associate Vice-President of Sustainable Energy at the University of Technology Jamaica. "The Sustainable Energy Roadmap is a very important tool, providing the direction needed to achieve Jamaica's own energy transformation. Data driven, the roadmap is critical to energy sustainability — addressing policy, energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy systems, grid stability, and much more," she said.

Worldwatch is an independent research organisation based in Washington, DC that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT:

* Jamaica has the potential to become a climate and energy leader and to set an example for the rest of the world.

* All of Jamaica's electricity needs could be met with renewable energy technologies alone. Just 10 medium-sized wind farms could provide over half of the country's current power demand; nearly one-quarter could be met with one square kilometre of solar PV panels installed at each of the seven sites assessed in the report. If the efficiency of existing biomass generation facilities were improved, agricultural waste could supply about 10 per cent of current consumption.

* Jamaica's petroleum power plants are highly inefficient.

* Almost 10 per cent of Jamaica's electricity is lost during transmission.

* Renewable energy generation in Jamaica is currently 42 per cent cheaper than the least-expensive operating fossil fuel power plant. Transitioning to an almost entirely renewable electricity system can decrease the average cost of electricity in Jamaica by 67 per cent — from US$0.22 per kWh to US$0.07 per kWh in 2030. Our analysis shows that continuing the status quo will have cost Jamaica US$29 billion by 2030, US$23 billion of which is fuel costs alone. Jamaica can save up to US$12.5 billion by investing in renewables instead.

* The Government has ambitious goals for sustainable energy, but the current institutional environment needs improvement.Transferring electricity planning and procurement processes from the Office of Utilities Regulation to the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining would be a key first step.

* Jamaica needs to fully implement several new policies to promote sustainable energy production and consumption. Recently introduced measures such as net billing, electricity wheeling, and a request for proposals (ie, tender) for renewable capacity generation still need to demonstrate their impact.

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