The expansion of wind power in Jamaica

Jamaica’s rich potential in the alternative energy sector was unveiled to potential investors at the Commonwealth Power Summit held in London this week.

Minister of Energy and Mining, Hon. James Robertson, who was the main speaker at a session on ‘Power Opportunities in the Caribbean’, outlined a number of projects that offer investment possibilities in the areas of wind energy and wave energy.

Citing developments in wind energy, he said that the recent expansion of the capacity of the Wigton Wind farm in Manchester, from 20.7 to 38.7 megawatts (MW), had increased the share of wind power on the national grid from 1.3 per cent in 2009 to four per cent at the start of 2011, and has placed the country on track to achieve its target of 11 per cent renewable energy use by 2012.

“Additionally, a suite of renewable energy products have been identified for financing to include hydo, biodiesel, waste to energy and solar. We are now conducting wind mapping studies across Jamaica supporting further development prospects at Wigton while looking at new facilities in St. Thomas, St. Mary and the Hellshire Hills,” he said.

He presented 16 proposed hydro projects with a total combined capacity of 24 MW to investors. While noting that the projects are at varying stages of development, Minister Robertson said three – at Laughlands, St. Ann; Great River, St. James; and Back Rio Grande, Portland – had been identified for early development. He said a Request for Proposal (RFP) for interested investors will be issued in July this year.

Minister Robertson outlined the National Energy Policy 2009 to 2030 and the government’s strategy to modernise the country’s energy sector, including the replacement of over 300 MW of old and inefficient generators with the introduction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), upgrade of the Petrojam Refinery, the continued exploration for oil and gas and the promotion of energy conservation and efficiency in the public sector.

He said Jamaica was committed to developing a strong and transparent legislative and regulatory framework for the promotion of investment in the energy sector.

“This important need is not lost on us and we are in the process of reviewing and finalising policies that will encourage investment in renewables, the implementation of net billing and smart grids to support the connection of renewable sources to the electric utility grid. We are also looking at concessionary financing and incentives for the development of renewables and retrofitting in energy efficiency,” he told the gathering.

The Minister, in the meantime, said that interest in Jamaica was strong at the conference.

“We have individual companies that are looking to come to Jamaica and invest in our renewable energy sector. Interest in hydro has been extremely high and on the solar side, we are learning about the technologies that will help us to move from just producing hot water to producing energy. Our energy policy, which is part of vision 2030, has been well received and it is driving interest in Jamaica,” he informed.

He stated that current efforts, including the move to LNG, should reduce Jamaica’s energy costs by up to 30 per cent in three years. “We had not done anything since Independence to give us a chance to be competitive and sustainable. Trinidad uses electricity at about six cents per kilowatt hour while in Jamaica, we pay 31 per cent. We are not a world class competitor at the moment. When we have implemented the changes, the Jamaican productive sector will be given a chance to survive,” Minister Roberston said.

The Jamaican delegation at the two-day conference, held from March 1 to 2, received commendation from energy sector experts on the country’s National Energy Policy.

The team, which included Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mining, Hilary Alexander, will be examining several renewable energy products in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe before returning to the island.