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How can Jamaica lower the costs of energy? (Part I)

Photo courtesy of Jamaica Observer

(from left) Lumas Kendrick, IDB Sr. Energy Specialist,; Therese Turner-Jones IDB-Country Representative;, Christopher Brown-DBJ Business Development Manager; Dr Ruth Potopsingh, UTech Associate Vice-President, & IDB ConSOC Member,  and Dr Earl Green, IDB Consultant-Sustainable Energy & Engineering

Energy Education:

Jamaica is confronting the daunting challenge of developing a national growth agenda to invigorate the economy and raise living standards for all Jamaicans. Economic growth however is inextricably linked to the cost of energy.  Unfortunately with no oil, natural gas, coal, or large hydro power resources, Jamaica has a narrow range of options at its disposal to bring down the cost of energy.  Thus the question arises, “How can Jamaica lower the costs of energy in general and the cost of electricity in particular?”

The reality is that energy is tied to virtually all aspects of society and the problem solutions can be technically, economically and legally challenging.  Energy discussions are often dominated by energy sector professionals with advanced and specific knowledge of the sector.  While finding their businesses impacted by high energy costs, non-technical professionals are often left to their own devices to decipher complex discussions regarding petroleum fuel products, natural gas, wind, solar, waste-to-energy, biofuels, energy efficiency and net-metering to name just a few topics.

In an effort to “raise the bar” in terms of quality of energy education for non-technical professionals in Jamaica, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Civil Society Consulting Group (ConSOC); The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and The University of Technology (UTech) joined forces to organize a one-day short course specifically targeting the energy education needs of non-technical professionals.

The workshop entitled, “De-Mystifying the Energy Sector”, was held at the University of Technology, in Kingston, Jamaica on Thursday July 23, 2015.  The workshop was designed for non-technical professionals, with the objectives of: (1) conducting a broad discussion on the global and local energy sectors, so as to put Jamaica’s energy reality in context, and (2) to provide a forum to examine the issues associated with Jamaica’s electricity costs and the options available for improving Jamaica’s energy landscape.

I began the morning session with a discussion on the global energy industry, examining the primary energy sources used for electricity generation such as coal, hydro power, natural gas, nuclear power and oil.

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Source: Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2011, April 2011, DOE/EIA-0383(2011)

As Jamaica depends heavily on oil for its electricity generation, there was extensive discussion about the oil market, the reasons for the oil price collapse, the long term price prognosis, and the implications for Jamaica’s economy.

Our discussion focused on renewable energy and the prospects of deploying them in Jamaica.  One participant asked, “Jamaica has lots of sunshine! Why are there not solar panels on every roof-top? Is there a conspiracy to keep Jamaica tied to using oil?”  This question resonated with the audience, as there is the general sense that Jamaica should be able to meet all of its energy needs using wind and solar energy.  We explored the cost of renewable technologies and more importantly the technical challenges of integrating renewable energy safely into an electricity system that was designed to run on fossil fuels.  It’s not always that simple to move to renewable energy.

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Photo courtesy of Wigton Wind Farm

Stay tuned to read part 2 of our discussion on Jamaican Energy.

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3 Comments

  • avatar image
    Jesus Martinez-Cantu
    September 14, 2015 Reply

    Hello, It is good such discussions take place. The information on LCOE by resource is not correct, it is old (year 2011) while the title of the slide says 2016!!. Solar PV LCOE is nowadays below 0.7-0.8 USD/kWh for Caribbean region and with opportunity to reduce (0.6 USD/kWh in 2017). Please see study Lazard of late 2014 (http://www.lazard.com/media/1777/levelized_cost_of_energy_-_version_80.pdf). Integration of high penetration of renewables is possible by inclusion of battery storage, even displacement of fossil fuel gensets to allow >60% renewable energy in the mix. While price of battery has been generally large, in the last years has been reduced making possible to add batteries in small grids to displace gensets regarded as spinning reserve. Last week I presented in CARILEC conference 2015 and these discussions came and were clarified. I will be glad to discuss with IDB as well.

    • avatar image
      Lumas
      September 14, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Jesus for the response. In reference to the LCOE chart, if you look closely, you will see that this was a chart done in 2011, PROJECTING what they thought prices would be in 2016. Hope that this clears it up. -LK

      • avatar image
        Jesus Martinez-Cantu
        September 15, 2015 Reply

        Hello Lumas, Thanks for the comments. I suggest that for these discussions more recent data should be used. The 2011 projection of EIA is way above the reality in 2015 as for the last five years PV installed prices have been reduced at a rate of 6-13 % (http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2015/08/12/solar-prices-fell-2015/).

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