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5,000 solar lamps will be distributed to energy-poor households — Holness

Thursday, March 22, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Prime Minister Andrew Holness, says an initial 5,000 solar lamps will be made available under a programme being developed to assist energy-poor households.

This is in light of house fires that since the start of the year have claimed the lives of eight adults and five children, caused mainly by lit candles or lamps.

“A system of identifying and distributing these solar lighting solutions to needy households is being developed,” Holness said, during his contribution to the Budget Debate in the House on Tuesday.

He pointed out that using solar solutions to replace open flame light sources is an established policy response to address energy poverty, noting that there are many such programmes successfully implemented all over the world.

Holness noted that a significant number of rural and urban homes in Jamaica are without electricity connections or are disconnected, pending payment, and rely on open flames as their source of light. This, he said, has resulted in tragic incidents of children perishing in fires ignited by candles and lamps.

“With simple and inexpensive actions, the Government can make a difference in the lives of energy-poor households, and particularly and significantly reduce or virtually eliminate the risk of these tragic fires,” he said.

The prime minister further noted that the solar lighting programme “is a real opportunity for social enterprise to support the ecosystem around the production, installation, user education, servicing and recycling of these solar lamps”.

To this end, Holness said he has directed the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme to develop a National Service Corps to support all elements of this solar lighting programme and to work with existing social entrepreneurs in this area.

These, he said, would include members of the Jamaican diaspora, such as Nathaniel Peat of Genex (Solar), which is a renewable energy company providing this very service in countries in Africa.

“We are not just giving solar lamps. We want to make it so convenient and practical to use these solar lamps that households no longer use open-flame lighting sources such as candles and lamps. After the full implementation of this programme, no child should perish in a house fire caused by a candle or a lamp used for light,” the Prime Minister stressed.

In the meantime, Holness urged parents/caregivers to ensure the safety of children, lamenting that too often, the investigations into these fires reveal that the parent or legal guardian left the child in the care of another person who themselves are either children or not capable of taking care of children.

“While this programme will remove one of the risk factors in such fires, ultimately, however, parents and guardians are responsible for the safety, care and protection of their children,” he said.

“We must educate, support and empower our parents, so that those who want to do better will, while ensuring that the organs of State are in a position to protect children from those parents who refuse,” he added.

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