The future of energy
BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor - features firstname.lastname@example.org
WITH just 14 more years to achieve the energy security goals under Vision 2030, stakeholders in Jamaica are agreed that the time is ripe for an energy revolution in the country, and Future Energy Corporation, a self-described next-generation company headed by 29-year-old Sherife AbdelMessih, is positioning itself to take advantage of the opportunities.
“We want to steer Jamaica towards energy independence with our vision to eliminate reliance on imported oil by 2030,” the company says.
To launch that drive, Future Energy hosted industry players at a two-day conference called ‘The Future of Energy in the Caribbean’ at the Pegasus Hotel on Monday and Tuesday. The objective is to create a road map to energy independence that can be replicated throughout the Caribbean.
“We plan on raising awareness for our vision to eliminate Jamaica’s reliance on imported oil within 14 years and achieving energy independence for the Caribbean,” AbdelMessih told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview at the start of the week.
“The first step to achieving a goal is believing that it is possible [so] the goal of the summit is to kick off our initiative in order to start working on a road map that can achieve this vision,” he said.
Future Energy is headquartered in AbdelMessih’s native Egypt, with subsidiaries in Latin America & the Caribbean and Europe. It expanded to Jamaica, the regional headquarters, in 2013 and to Barbados and St Lucia two years later. According to company data, it provides “high-performance, resilient, low-cost” energy solutions in the way of product development, financing, construction, and energy- performance certification.
In Jamaica, it has developed solar power systems engineered to withstand category four hurricanes, with some of its clients being Guardsman Group, Jamaica National Building Society, Blue Power, Caribbean Maritime Institute, and Cool Corp.
“We provide a novel business model to the market by allowing commercial and industrial customers to reduce their electricity rates by more than 50 per cent without making any investment. We provide high-performance solar energy systems to qualified clients with 100 per cent financing, where the client simply makes a monthly payment to us in return for their solar system and after five years they own the system and get free electricity for the next 30 years,” explained AbdelMessih.
“After we have delivered solar systems to clients and slashed their electricity bills or completely eliminated them, we have seen clients in the manufacturing industry start drawing up plans to expand their manufacturing facilities to produce feedstock that they used to import, because it is now cheaper for them to produce it in Jamaica now that they have lowered their energy costs. Imagine the consequences of this phenomena when it comes to job creation and economic growth if you replicate it across the Jamaican economy,” he continued.
In addition to pioneering his business model, AbdelMessih was a consultant on the development of the first solar power plant in the Middle East, and was an advisor on power and renewable energy investments to multiple self-made billionaires. Yahoo! named him one of the top 10 social entrepreneurs in Egypt; Arabian Business listed him as one of the 500 most influential people in the Middle East; and L’Institut Choiseul included him among the top 200 economic leaders in Africa.
He holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from MIT which he attended on full scholarship.
Asked what was his vision for the global energy sector in the next five to 10 years, the Future Energy CEO said: “It will transition from an industry that is price-volatile to one that is price-stable; from an industry that has finite resources to one that has infinite resources; from high pollution to environmentally friendly; I am talking about the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy. Last year alone, global investments in renewable energy exceeded US$320 billion. I expect that number to reach US$1 trillion in annual investments within 10 years.”
“When we transitioned from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, we didn’t do that because we ran out of stones, we didn’t do that because stones became too expensive, we did so because we discovered something that has the potential to create a whole new order for society. This is also why we will shift from the fossil fuel age to the renewable age,” he told the Observer.
He explained that the conference was staged in Jamaica not only because it houses the company headquarters, but because the island has a very representative energy mix to most Caribbean islands, meaning a road map outlined for Jamaica can be replicated by other Caribbean nations”.
“Also,” he said, “Jamaica has taken significant strides in adopting renewable energy in its fuel mix relative to other Caribbean countries.”
Vision 2030 states that renewable sources will account for 20 per cent of Jamaica’s energy supply mix by 2030. Already, there has been an increase in the renewable capacity. Wigton Windfarm in Manchester, for example, is adding 24MW to the existing 39 MW of output, and BMR Jamaica Wind Limited is constructing a 36 MW wind farm in St Elizabeth. In addition to other commercial projects, like the construction of the solar generation facility in Content, Clarendon, and the retrofitting of a natural gas plant in Bogue, St James, there has been an increase in the number of households using renewable solutions.
“We have issued over 300 licences for net billing for residential use so far,” Jamaica’s Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said at the conference on Monday. He added that the ministry issued a new licence to JPS “a week or two ago” to allow for the resumption of net billing which was discontinued on legal grounds.
It bodes well for the region renown for having electricity prices among the highest in the world.
“The Caribbean region has the highest electricity prices in the world, mainly because it is one of the few regions in the world that is still completely dependent on oil for power generation. The region needs to modernise its energy infrastructure in order to achieve a resilient and more cost- competitive energy economy,” said Abde lMessih.
Future Energy Corporation has also been undertaking social work in the island, having donated a solar system to Campion College and sponsoring the Jamaican Women’s National Basketball team for the last two years.