Jamaica goes green

Fitzroy Vidal, Jamaica Director of Energy, Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy

Renewable energy experts aggressively push green initiatives for Miami audience

The future of clean energy is bright in Jamaica, according to experts attending this week’s Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, held in Miami. Several Caribbean officials and business leaders focused on energy innovation gathered at the Miami forum, anxious to find economical energy alternatives to the rising energy costs in the region.

The push to go green across the Caribbean takes a political edge at the conference, as part of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI), which was launched last year by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden with Caribbean leaders. The U.S. has pledged to fund renewable energy projects, partly to minimize the Caribbean’s close ties with political opponent Venezuela, who provides oil in the region at cheaper rates through the PetroCaribe agreement.

“We’re coming together, not just the U.S., but both international financial institutions and the EU [European Union], to say to Caribbean island states that if you’re willing to make the politically difficult decisions, we will be there with you, to support you, to work with you, to make sure the private section comes in to make that investment,” said U.S. Department of State Special Envoy for Energy Affairs, Amos Hochstein, in a special interview with the National Weekly. “That will mean a brighter, better future for the Caribbean, and for all of us.”

Hochstein, who chaired the CESI task force’s first high level meeting in Miami, noted that significant progress has been made since 2014, including a $150 million renewable project in wind and solar energy in Jamaica.

As a result, Jamaica has been stepping up their energy development, according to Fitzroy Vidal, Jamaica Director of Energy, Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy.

Speaking to the National Weekly, Vidal says the Jamaican Government has increased its renewable energy development effort by “using indigenous sources in the country.” The use of wind solar energy alone rose from six percent in 2012, to around 10 to 12 percent today.

“There’s a long way to go, but there’s a lot of interest in the country in renewable energy,” noted Vidal.

He also confirmed that the Jamaican Energy Council, established by Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell in 2012, is aggressively mobilizing renewable energy reforms, with participation from both public and private sectors.

Acknowledging the high cost of renewable energy, Vidal said Jamaica is changing the “Legislative, policy and regulatory levels to ensure the platform is transparent for investors.”

Meanwhile, Kelly Tomblin, President/CEO of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) – a group often criticized for high electrical rates – said tremendous renovations have been made to the generators at the utility company. This renovation has improved the company’s fuel efficiency, making both domestic and business rates “the lowest in ten years’. She said the company is fully supportive of the renewal energy initiatives to ensure “if oil prices go up, JPS rates won’t go up with them.”

CEO of BMR Energy Bruce Levy, whose company is currently building a wind farm in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, said when the company is operational, it and other wind farms will transfer the related energy to JPS grids, delivering power at much cheaper rates to consumers.



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