JPS licence could prevent Jamaica from going full force into renewables, says outgoing British high commissionerMonday, July 26, 2021
BY ARTHUR HALL
Jamaica is being urged to rethink its energy strategy if it is to meet the ambitious target, set by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, of 50 per cent of the electricity generation being from renewables by 2030.
Outgoing British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad says Jamaica will have to do something different if it wants to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used in its energy mix.
“On the energy front I have been speaking with Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz because he really has to, which he is doing, have a real think about the future energy strategy of the country,” Ahmad told the Jamaica Observer as he prepares to end his four-year stint as the top British diplomat in Jamaica.
Ahmad argued that one major hurdle that Jamaica faces is that the island's monopoly distributor of energy, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is locked into long-term fuel contracts.
“What he cannot ignore is the pre-existing contracts that it [the JPS] has, and the way in which the JPS is having to operate as the supply of fuel is on a long term contract basis on a take-or-pay and 80 per cent of the volume that Jamaica has contracted has to be taken whether they use it or not,” said Ahmad.
“That squeezes the space for renewables quiet considerably although we have seen the Wigton Windfarm and some of the solar projects that are taking place,” added Ahmad.
He pointed to the British £53m investment in solar-powered irrigation in Jamaica, with projects in St Elizabeth, Clarendon and St Catherine, as a way to go in reducing the dependence on fossil fuels.
“That is actually happening but there needs to be a big rethink of the way in which the energy mix in Jamaica is produced,” said Ahmad.
“If that moves more towards LNG (liquefied natural gas), more towards competition, more towards renewable energy, then we have something to offer but we are not there yet,” declared Ahmad.
Responding to Ahmad Vaz told the Observer that his ministry is fully seized of the benefits of moving aggressively towards more renewable energy as this will have a positive impact on the environment and Jamaica's import bill.
“However we must be careful to build out new capacity in line with projected demand and ensure that the energy mix maintains grid stability and reliability,” said Vaz.
“Hence the Ministry is working closely with our development partners, industry players, and other stakeholders to ensure that ultimately Jamaican consumers realize the benefits of a healthier environment, reliable and efficient electricity supply, and globally competitive prices,” added Vaz.
The Cabinet had initially set a target of 30 per cent of Jamaica's energy mix being renewables by 2030.
But Holness has argued that at the pace the country is going that could be achieved by 2020. He charged that the target was not ambitious enough.
“We are working even harder to a more ambitious target to reach 50 per cent of our electricity generation being from renewables by 2030. Pushing our energy generation to be 50-50 by 2030; fossil fuels and renewables is in our national security interest, in our survival interest,” said Holness as he put the country on alert almost three years ago.
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