Let there be light!

Let there be light!

Boswell Heights residents to ring in New Year with electricity for the first time

Monday, December 28, 2015

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RESIDENTS of Boswell Heights in rural St Andrew are expected to usher in the New Year with electricity for the first time, extending the islandwide coverage which now stands at 97.5 per cent.

The National Energy Solutions Limited (NESol), formerly known as the Rural Electrification Programme, is the organisation tasked with ensuring that the community have access to electricity.

A department of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, the NESol constructs electrical distribution pole lines in rural areas and provides house-wiring assistance to householders.

The company is charged with building the infrastructure in various communities, which is then handed over to the country’s electrical provider, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), which supplies the electricity.

Chief Executive Officer of NESol Garfield Daley explains that when the REP was first incorporated in 1975, the main concentration of electricity was in the Corporate Area. This represented only 49 per cent of the population.

He is proud of the growth of the organisation and its ability to bring electricity to most of Jamaica, to the point where there is almost universal coverage.

Daley notes that in the past three years of the programme, NESol has distributed more than 120 pole lines and wired over 3,000 houses.

The CEO says that with funding in place, the organisation’s goal is to touch another 5,000 to 10,000 households in 2016.

He informs that for some households and communities, their distance from the JPS power grid creates a hindrance to fulfilling the mandate of the organisation.

"This is where the solar technology comes in," he says, adding that the organisation is exploring the renewable energy field to gain access to these communities.

This initiative began in 2009 when the mandate of the REP was expanded to include renewable energy solutions.

"The expansion of the mandate has allowed us to look at the broader mix of energy solutions, as the company is exploring the use of hydro, wind, solar and LNG as alternatives for those communities that are inaccessible," Daley explained.

He further notes that the company is determined to find solutions to get the country to 100 per cent, as electricity is a very important commodity, which contributes immensely to the development of communities.

"The social improvements in these communities are phenomenal…the economic activities are expanding. There are more shops, furniture-producing establishments, and clothing establishments, such as tailors and dressmakers. The communities come to life, people feel more secure, and feel like they are a part of Jamaica, once they receive electricity," the CEO tells JIS News.

"The residents are usually so overjoyed, and grateful. Upon returning to these communities, many times these folks remember us from NESol, and they will stop us and give us food, ground provisions; they are just so happy their lives have been transformed," he adds.

For Daley, the lighting ceremonies are always special. "What gives us the greatest push and drive is attending a lighting ceremony. The first time the energy minister flicks a switch and light appears, the joy and excitement that the residents express give great satisfaction," he says.

"I can recall this elderly man from Adam’s Valley, Manchester, telling me three years ago, ‘I feel like I could die in peace now that I have lived to see Adam’s Valley get electricity for the first time’," Daley recounts.

He says the village was transformed into a semi-town, "with a square, more music and more parties".

The NESol has been in communities across the island that many people have never heard of, including Douglas Castle, St Ann; York Town and Lawson, Clarendon; Anchovy, St James; Banana Ground, Manchester; and Morant Road, St Thomas, among others.

Daley notes that the 2.5-3 per cent of Jamaica without electricity represents 20,000 households, and this should take the organisation a little over two years to complete. He says the organisation would love to see the 100 per cent achieved as quickly as possible.

He points out that the team from NESol does assessments around the island; members of Parliament (MPs) make formal requests, and community groups even lobby to get electricity in their communities.

However, he points out that many things may impede the development, including proximity, and terrain.

Daley cites one resident of Barry, St Catherine, who lobbied and in 2014 received electricity. "She sent me a message saying thanks for the light. It really is gratifying," he adds.

The CEO outlines that the expansion of the mandate now includes regularising electricity in urban communities. "In some urban communities, where there are illegal connections, also known as ‘cobwebs’, the power quality is bad," he notes, adding that NESol will seek to regularise these connections, in an effort to improve the power quality.

Additionally, the company undertakes energy audits and designs programmes to cut energy consumption.

The CEO says that NESol also seeks to undertake special projects that include renewable energy solutions. He points out that they are currently exploring the solarisation of the National Indoor Sports Centre, in Kingston, which could see the electricity bill being reduced from $600,000 to $200,000 per month.

He cites the Police Academy, at Twickenham Park, St Catherine, as an entity that has already benefitted from the NESol’s renewable energy programme.

"NESol’s focus is definitely on renewable, as the company is open to finding energy solutions for public sector organisations which could see long-term savings," Daley said.

The CEO explains that as the company positions itself to move into the renewable energy field, the country could benefit significantly from the reduction of its carbon footprints, and a safer, cleaner environment.

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