More companies investing in renewables
From left: Brian Jardim, CEO of Rainforest Foods, speaks about his company's use of renewables at a breakfast workshop held last Thursday at the ROK Hotel in Kingston. Sitting beside him on panel are William Mahfood, chairman of Wisynco; Ricardo Case, director of engineering services at JPS; and Carlos Loayza, business development manager, Grupotec. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Bolstered by local and international ambitions to reduce carbon emissions, more companies have amplified the use of solar and other forms of renewables in powering their operations.

Business leaders, speaking on panel at a breakfast workshop hosted by renewable energy firm Soleco Energy in partnership with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and IDB Invest late last week, said they have been investing heavily as they diversify their energy consumption while significantly cutting cost and contributing to a cleaner and 'greener' environment.

For Brian Jardim, chief executive officer (CEO) of Rainforest Caribbean, the use of solar at its Montego Bay location accounts for about a third of the company's energy production.

"We have 3,200 panels on the roof there, they're on top of all the freezer boxes, we've also just built a new freezer that is among the largest in the English-speaking Caribbean which can hold up to 10 million pounds of product, representing a true definition of an energy hub and with solar being a big help in all we do. [As a result], we plan to expand it in the other islands in which we operate… so there is a lot of opportunities on the horizon for us to expand our solar footprint," he said.

Professing to have been early out the blocks with an energy solution for his company, William Mahfood, chairman of the Wisynco Group, said the company now generates just under four megawatts (MW) for its own use. This, he said, is apportioned across 2MW of liquefied natural gas (LNG), 700 kilowatt (KW) of solar coupled with the current installation of 1MW of combined fuel.

"Going forward, I think solar with storage is going to become a real option and many more entities can start to look at that for possible take-up," he stated.

Just late last year, food and financial conglomerate GraceKennedy Limited also announced that it had transitioned a number of operations across its network of supermarkets, factories and corporate offices to solar, spending over US$3 million to implement the systems, even as it eyes plans to increase to exploit more renewable sources. Through a new energy policy the company is also looking to recover approximately US$1 million by 2026 in energy savings.

Furthering the discussions, oil and gas company TotalEnergies also setting a target to increase its renewables output, for its part, said that the company has been positioning to scale up from its current 17,000 MW capacity.

"Our target as a company, worldwide, is to increase or double that figure by 2025 to 35,000 MW and by 2030 to 100,000 MW of renewable energy… so we are investing big time in this area. We are also currently looking at the Caribbean as we seek to partner with existing players such as Soleco on a number of these projects," commented Stephen Wedderburn, renewable explorer with TotalEnergies.

With the cost of energy locally found to be consistently high, Tariq Alli, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) general manager for the Caribbean country department, said that addressing the high cost of energy will be a must for countries if they are to move forward with development. The incorporation of greater renewables, he believes, will play a significant role in doing so.

According to his colleague Omar Zacarias, investment management officer at IDB Invest, over US$240 billion of investment was needed in renewables across Latin America and the Caribbean up to 2040 if the region is follow a climate safe path.

For these reasons, renewables companies such as Soleco, in answering the call, has been moving to expand its client portfolio, offering bespoke financing solutions as it looks to deepen investment partnerships locally. From the over US$24 million in financing it secured from IDB Invest back in 2021, the company has been working to build out projects focused on solar energy systems.

"We are actively looking for opportunities to deploy capital in Jamaica," Soleco's founder and CEO Angella Rainford said.

At present the bulk of the country's energy needs is supplied by the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) which holds a monopoly on the transmission, distribution and supply of electricity. The company, in exploring a number of initiatives, including renewables, as part of efforts to reduce its dependence on oil, however, wants to diversify its portfolio across wind, hydro and solar energy in the coming years.

Participants listen attentively to a presentation on stage delivered by Soleco's founder and CEO Angella Rainford. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
Solar panels are used to trap sunlight which they later convert to energy.
Kellaray Miles

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