Private sector investment critical to funding renewables
Our in its presentation, referenced survey data which point to Jamaica's ability to readily generate about 3500 GWh of renewable energy yearly from solar, wind and hydro electricity.

Private sector-led investment is critical in driving the goal to achieve a 50 per cent renewable energy mix by 2030, in keeping with the revised objective of the national energy policy.

The policy, crafted in 2009 and revised over several years since its tabling, seeks to modernise and diversify the country's energy infrastructure whilst delivering on 'net zero' global ambitions.

Speaking at an Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) webinar held last week, Elizabeth Butler, legal advisor on international clean energy projects, stressed that as the mission to reduce carbon emissions and to procure green financing increases, so too has the need for public-private partnerships which has become even more critical in financing clean energy projects globally.

"Jamaica's US$1.2-billion price tag [for clean energy funding] is going to be a competitive effort, as such, the country must secure both public and private financing to meet that target. Right across the region, there is a large number of other Caribbean nations attempting to do the very same thing. On the international level, several countries are also scrambling for financing as well," she said, noting that as the competition increases in the global marketplace, countries will be forced to deal with a changing landscape.

Locally, companies such as Soleco Energy, Solar Buzz and a growing number of other entities have been ramping up their efforts to target more commercial clients and to help them plug into solar. The roll-out of a number of clean energy financing products across financial institutions have also been taking the market by storm, offering both large and small enterprises the opportunity to access the funds needed for their respective projects.

"The huge demand for international donor financing limits Jamaica's access to what has been a reliable source in the past for early projects. The old reliance on public financing or government-led financing is just not feasible for price tags of US$1.2 billion, as in the case of Jamaica," Butler stated.

"The ideal scenario is therefore for the country to leverage private sector investment through incentives and guarantees, if needed. The country's demonstrated success in prior project financing for renewable energy for solar and wind projects shows that Jamaica has a proven track record and that these projects are viable," she added.

Strained by growing economic obligations, Butler noted that governments, though often limited in their public capacity, can, through a number of instruments including loans, grants and other forms of concessionary financing, also secure partnership support from various international agencies to help with delivering on the clean energy objective.

"Some other areas emerging include dedicated renewable energy funds and energy efficiency funds in which public donors try to aggravate financing from multiple private sector sources, creating a much faster track for project financing applications, approvals and completion. On the energy efficiency side, international donors have also been working very hard in developing a very robust private sector capacity to service energy companies, finance projects and to help consumers drive and control their consumption of electricity to lower levels and costs," she said.

Lauding Jamaica for its advance work in the development of key policy frameworks, Butler, however, underscored that more needs to be done to further build on the country's growing success.

In plotting a road map to 50 per cent renewables by 2030, Valentine Fagan, power generation systems consultant with the OUR, though describing the journey as a challenging one, said that it can be done if stakeholders can secure the necessary funding and move towards implementation in a timely manner.

With just about seven years leading up to the 2030 mark, he said it will require focused effort to arrive at the 50 per cent target. Moving from 5 per cent in 2015 and 12.5 per cent in 2022, the OUR's target is for renewables to climb to 13.7 per cent this year.

Beyond 2030, the forecast is also for renewables to become the dominant source of energy, contributing approximately 51.6 per cent of the country's total energy mix.

"To achieve the 50 per cent, it means that we will have to be generating over 2,305 GWh renewables by 2030," Fagan said, pointing to findings from studies which supports the country's ability to generate about 3,500 GWh of energy from the renewable elements of sun, water and wind yearly and to meet the expected demand.

With renewable energy supplies now accounting for some 530 GWh of the total energy mix, this therefore means that at least 1,800 GWh will be needed to bag the target by 2030.

The country's sole power transmitter and distribution company, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), through its own installed renewables capacity currently leads just about 344 MW or near 34 per cent of the total renewables energy system.

Elizabeth Butler, legal advisor on international clean energy projects
Kellaray Miles

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