Renewable energy on a roll in Jamaica


Monday, September 10, 2018

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The spectre of Kingston becoming submerged and the shoreline of Montego Bay becoming compromised should motivate every single one of us to do our part to protect our island and, indeed, our planet from climate change. The erosion at Hellshire beach and Little Ochie has sounded a loud alarm.

Last Thursday Jamaica's scientists and policymakers participated in a forum at The University of the West Indies (UWI), entitled “100 per cent Clean, the Why and How of Jamaica's Transition from Imported Fossil Fuels to Natural Resources.” Chair of the forum Gerald Lindo, United States Agency for International Development project management specialist for energy, opened by declaring that “Climate Change is the direst situation faced by civilisation.”

Professor Anthony Chen, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with former US Vice-President Al Gore and Professor of Applied Atmospheric Physics, led the discussion. He noted that Jamaica had joined with the NGO, which states as its purpose: “Cut CO2 emissions and build a global movement for climate solutions”. Last Saturday led a worldwide campaign, #RiseforClimate, stating, “It's a beautiful time to really feel global unity in the struggle for just climate action.”

Jamaica has been making some headway in renewable energy: Prof Chen shared that solar, wind and hydro generation accounted for between 15 and 20 per cent of our energy supply. He acknowledged that the cost of installation of renewables was costly but that this was steadily becoming less expensive.

Prof Chen sees the day when renewables will cost much less than fossil fuel energy generation and is calling for a national spatial plan, mapping for wind, solar and hydro installations. He said that the tragic floods in Kerala and the extensive fires in California are awakening the world to the danger of global warming. California, he noted, had committed to 50 per cent energy generation by renewables in 2025, and 100 per cent by 2050.

Panellists Dr Masa Ashtine and Dr Randy Koon Koon convinced us that, indeed, we can change our climate for the better, as they discussed applications, integration and socio-economic pathways. Dr Ashtine referred to the extensive solar installations at Lady Hamilton Grand Palladium in Hanover and Wisynco in St Catherine. I can add the multimillion-dollar Rainforest installations in both Montego Bay and Kingston. He gave us the big news that in my home parish of Westmoreland, financing had been secured for a 51-MW plant that will represent a quarter of Jamaica's renewable energy portfolio.

Dr Ashtine foresaw JPS moving to micro-grids, guaranteeing greater energy efficiency. Dr Koon applauded the US$21.6 million JPS hybrid energy plant, the first of its kind in the Caribbean. He said with the continued installation of renewables, Jamaica can reduce electricity cost by 67 per cent!

Therefore, we were heartened when Professor Alvin Wint took the podium and explained that the Generation Procuring Entity (GPE) which he chairs has as one of its operating protocols special consideration for the procurement of renewable energy. His organisation, in conjunction with the PIOJ under the guidance of Professor Michael Taylor, dean of the UWI Faculty of Science and Technology, has soberly acknowledged “what Jamaica will look like if we don't act”.

He said the existing power plants will peak in 2020 and the plan is to phase out these heavily fossilfuel-dependent plants and install renewables, the cost of which is trending down. He sees this as “important to Jamaica's competitive advantage”. We must count first on ourselves, on academia, Government, business and civil society to stay in step with global efforts to literally save our planet.

We have to thank Dr Tannecia Stephenson, head of the Department of Physics, for convening an important forum. We understand that this outstanding Convent of Mercy Alpha graduate returned to her alma mater to teach for two years before continuing her postgraduate studies. What a good example: giving back to her school in a brilliant and practical way.


Fontana Pharmacy — 50 years and growing

We were shopping around in vain for household items at an older store in Savanna-la-mar some years ago when someone suggested that we check out the then newly opened Fontana Pharmacy, one of several branches of Jamaica's largest pharmacy chain. There we were greeted with a well-stocked store and helpful staff. What a bold move in a relatively small town.

Created in 1968 in Mandeville by Bobby and the late Angela Chang, their children Kevin and Anne responded to keen succession planning. Eighty-six-year-old Bobby continues as a Board Director in retirement, while Anne's husband Ray Therrien has joined the Board. The strong trio, Kevin, Ann and Ray have made  Fontana a household word and one of the most popular Jamaican shopping sites online.  

They will mark their 50thAnniversary with the opening of a 35,000 square foot super store at the Waterloo-West Kings House intersection which it is reported “will feature a state-of-the-art pharmacy, one-stop beauty hub, extensive baby and children’s selections, wide-ranging house and home décor collection, full business centre, photo lab, bill payment and courier services.”

Jamaicans should be heartened by such developments which will create 80 new jobs in addition to the scores employed in the construction of the complex. Clearly we have solid investment opportunities, so we hope fellow citizens both here and in the diaspora will come on board and enjoy the benefits to themselves and to the country.


A plea for tourism workers

Kudos to Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett who earlier this year copped the global award for being Top Tourism Minister. He disclosed last week that we are seeing record-breaking stopover arrivals from May to August this year — a 4.4 per cent increase over that period last year. We are looking at gross foreign exchange earnings since January 2018 of US$1.9 billion.

With such positive results we urge the authorities to implement better housing solutions for workers in the tourism industry. Let us show appreciation for the excellent service they offer by lifting their living standards. The feedback we are hearing is that there is too great a contrast between the places where they work and where they live.


Farewell Hon Easton Douglas, OJ

Easton Douglas's life of national service has been lauded by both the leaders of the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party Government. The commissioned land surveyor and urban planner was a civil servant before entering politics in 1989. He served under the PNP Administration as Minister of Health, Minister of the Public Service, Minister of Housing, Land and the Environment. Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips in his tribute said Mr Douglas was “a champion patriot [who] epitomised the true spirit of Jamaican nationhood.” Dr Phillips noted that under his watch, much progress was made in both housing and land distribution: “Operation Pride, a bold attempt at low-income housing through partnerships with the poor, became one of his signature programmes.”

Prime Minister Andrew Holness in his tribute noted: “Easton Douglas has etched his place in the history of Jamaica. His legacy is one of sacrifice, dedication and service to the development of Jamaica and its people. He was most passionate about infrastructure development, particularly town planning. Indeed, he served the people of Jamaica well.”

Condolences to Mr Douglas' family. Rest in peace, fine patriot.

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