Balance our energy consumption with renewablesMonday, October 22, 2018
The proliferation in consumption of energy across the island, and more specifically across the municipalities, propels one to ask for how long can we continue with the heavy dependency on fossil fuels?
Electricity production from oil sources in Jamaica was reported at 90.23 per cent of total energy production in 2014, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators. This means that less than 10 per cent of all energy we consume is from renewable sources. With funding assistance from the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) the Government of Jamaica is in the process of implementing an Energy Security and Efficiency Enhancement Project (ESEEP). Through this project, a survey was conducted in 2017 to look at the status of renewable energy in the electricity mix by surveying various stakeholders to report their generation data for 2016 and part of 2017. As of July 2017 the latest figure was that approximately 17 per cent of Jamaica's energy consumption was from renewable sources.
The Government has made several health-conscious policy decisions over the last few months, and I must commend the Administration on its green efforts. However, all this will be in vain if we do not pivot from our high dependence on solid fuels and balance our consumption with renewables.
With over 85 per cent of our energy production dependent on oil, gas and coal sources, we must be cognisant of the World Health Organization's data revealing that approximately four million deaths worldwide each year are attributed to use of solid fuels such as charcoal.
So we must ask ourselves the question: Is Jamaica really moving?
The incomplete combustion of fuels such as charcoal and other solid fuels results in harmful and polluting smoke that poses a significant health risk. Using these fuels significantly increases the likelihood of death from pneumonia, stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and other ailments.
“But wi nah use charcoal so much again.” That may be so; however, many branches of our culture, including the ever-popular jerk cuisine, still uses solid fuels in the preparation of foods. We must become energy-conscious, because our consumption is affecting far more than the environment when we analyse it; it is affecting our very lives.
I was recently made aware of a project called Eco-wave — in which wave energy was being harvested into renewable energy. The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) was invited to Gibraltar, where the technology is being tested and improved through a 100kW pilot. This is a wave I believe Jamaica should surf and not allow to miss us.
We are an island, we have more waves than even Gibraltar — bless their souls. And if we have the opportunity to convert the motion of the ocean into renewables, then I see no reason we should not be diving into the opportunity.
Upon completion of the whole 5-MW power station, the project will provide Gibraltar 15 per cent of its overall consumption of electricity. This is from waves only!
It is high time that, as a nation, we capitalise — emphasis on the 'capital' — on our geographic advantages and use them to our benefit. This will have both economic and environmental benefits for us as a nation.
Let's spend a few seconds on how much we spend. The World Bank reports that close to 83 per cent of the energy we consume is imported. The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology reports that we have consistently imported in excess of 20 million barrels of oil each year since 2013 — sometimes surpassing that in years before, with figures ranging from US$900 million to US$2 billion in costs.
We talk a lot about renewal in the politics, but perhaps – hear me out — there are other aspects of national importance that could do well with some renewals, or should I say some renewables. We have the Wigton Windfarm and, as a nation, we can be proud of having the largest wind farm in the region. But this is just a start. Wind energy is reportedly 0.3 per cent of total final energy consumption (TFEC). The World Bank report further outlines that marine energy consumption is at zero per cent of TFEC, and solar energy below one per cent.
Again, we are an island; sand, sun and sea, remember? The right energy has always been here; harnessing it is apparently the problem. In my capacity as councillor for the Chancery Hall Division I will be working alongside the mayor of Kingston to help transform the KSAMC into a more energy-efficient body. This will hopefully be replicated across all municipalities. That is where the highest consumption takes place, and I strongly believe that is where the shift must begin.
Duane Smith is chairman of Wigton Windfarm Limited and councillor of the Chancery Hall Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation.
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