KINGSTON — The volatility of the global energy market has forced consuming countries worldwide to take a serious look at the skyrocketing cost and its impact on their economies, and to plan and implement strategies aimed at reducing their dependence on fossil fuel.
The Government, which is also feeling the effects of the cost of imported oil, has stepped up its effort to raise public awareness and plan strategies for the use of alternative energy, particularly renewable energy.
Included in the strategies are the launching of the country’s first National Energy Policy; setting the stage for the introduction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG); promoting the use of solar energy and expanding wind farms.
There has also been an islandwide series of community and stakeholder workshops put on by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).
At the February 2011 launch of the workshops, Chief Technical Director at the PCJ, Earl Green, explained that the objectives were to promote energy efficiency; and the utilisation of energy efficient equipment, gadgets, systems and programmes in Jamaica.
Meanwhile, newly appointed Minister of Energy and Mining, Hon. Clive Mullings, is calling on Jamaicans to be more knowledgeable about energy consumption in their households, in their daily travels and at the workplace. In so doing, householders will be able to control what they spend monthly to meet their domestic energy needs.
Speaking with JIS News, Mr. Mullings said consumers must ensure that the appliances they purchase are energy efficient, and that they are aware of what causes spikes in energy usage.
“The reason why, in some instances, the bill goes up, is that the house is locked up and is very hot, and the refrigerator, by virtue of the increasing pressure on the outside, is continuously working,” he says.
Mr. Mullings points out that 65 per cent of energy consumption is in refrigeration and air-conditioning, and the Government is actively examining the use of the current hydro carbon refrigerant, which is highly inefficient.
“We have to see how best we can minimise the utilisation of that in appliances or make our consumers aware that when they are purchasing equipment, they don’t just buy the cheapest one, but they look at the energy efficient one,” he argues.
The Minister also cites other strategies that consumers can adopt to minimise energy consumption, including opening windows to increase air flow, using the water heater for no more than five to 10 minutes and restricting the frequent use of irons.
“Unlike the leaking pipe where you can see water gushing, you don’t see the electricity gushing. For the refrigerator, you have to get into the culture of not going in and out like a revolving door, because you are affecting your consumption. These things add up,” he notes.
The Minister says efforts are being made in public buildings to reduce energy consumption, particularly in this time of fiscal constraints.
Mr. Mullings recommends that private companies can request of the Jamaica Public Service, a graph of their energy consumption pattern. This will enable them to identify periods of high energy use, analyse these times and take corrective decisions.
There is also concern about the use of high energy consuming incandescent light bulbs, which could be replaced by more energy efficient fluorescent bulbs.
Commenting on the proposed ban on incandescent bulbs, the Minister says there is merit in at least examining the prospect of imposing such a ban, pointing out that any such decision would have to be made by Cabinet.
“The fact is that the energy saving bulb is more expensive, but we have to get there, because we are facing a crisis,” he says.
Meanwhile, the Government has stepped up its effort to boost its renewable energy strategy, through the commissioning of a Wind Mapping study.
This study is being undertaken by Wigton Wind Farm Limited, an agency of the Ministry of Energy and Mining, through the PCJ.
Wind mapping will determine the wind blowing patterns across the island. It will also identify the best points for establishing wind farms.
The Energy Minister tells JIS News that the study is critical to the government’s strategy of increasing its available stock of alternative energy sources, which will assist in reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuel.
"A loan has been received and the process has already begun. We expect that that wind map will allow not only for putting up turbines, but [will] encourage private investors to come in, because then you’ll know where to put up wind turbines,” he said.
The wind mapping exercise complements the vision for the country’s energy sector under the National Energy Policy. This policy seeks to provide the framework for the sustainable management of energy resources and for the development of viable renewable energy resources, which is expected to represent some 20 per cent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.
Mr. Mullings points out that the study is also necessary because not every location that is windy or has a strong gust of wind, is suitable.
"If the flow is inconsistent, then the output from the turbine is inconsistent and it affects the grid's stability and its delivery,” he added.
Using wind turbines for the generation of electricity enhances the country's drive for 'clean energy'. It also reduces the emissions from burning traditional fuels and lowers the country’s global carbon output.
The PCJ is also keen in facilitating the development of a solar manufacturing plant in the island, or developing the business plan which would lead to its creation.
“We’ve had some discussions and we're going to be either facilitating or developing a business plan for a solar manufacturing facility in Jamaica and this would be the first in the CARICOM region,” Mr. Green says.
The Chief Technical Director says the private sector will be invited to take part in such a venture.
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS Information Officer