Going solar to cut Paulwell's electricity bill in half

Energy minister urges all to follow his example

Garfield Myers

Monday, March 12, 2012

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Convinced that the future lies with renewable energy, Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell says he is leading by example.

Paulwell told the Annual General Meeting of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce at the Golf View Hotel on Thursday night that in two weeks he hoped to have "50 per cent of my energy needs at home, (served) by the sun that God has given us ..."

Paulwell said the solar project at his home which should have started on the weekend, will eventually reduce his household energy costs from 40 cents per kWh to 20 cents per kWh.

While seemingly conceding that the initial cost of renewable energy solutions was high, Paulwell argued that there were loan facilities available for householders from various sources, including the National Housing Trust (NHT), which made the investment worthwhile.

Paulwell was particularly pleased about a $100-million line of credit being offered by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) since March 1 through commercial banks, credit unions, the National People's Cooperative Bank and the Exim Bank.

The line of credit allows householders to access up to $2 million to install renewable energy solutions. According to Paulwell, "unlike the NHT," the DBJ facility is "not restricted to just water heaters and solar panels but can also include things like bio-digester systems, wind turbines and others..."

Paulwell argued for Jamaicans to think long term in dealing with energy costs.

"If you think of what you spend now for electricity at 40 cents per kilowatt- hour, what I will be able to achieve at my home is somewhere in the region of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour from the utilisation of the sun, and it therefore makes sense... It might very well be worth your while to borrow these funds and pay back from the savings derived through the use of these (renewable) sources. I urge you to contemplate that as we work towards the solutions we are all seeking in relation to electric energy," the minister said.

He added that the NHT renewable energy facility would have to be modified "because you can't be saying to people: 'you have access to borrow money to put up a solar water heater, but if you already benefited from the Housing Trust you can't access' ... that doesn't make sense".

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