Govt. Seeking Alternative Energy Sources to Cut Down on Oil Bill


Phillip Paulwell, Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, has said that Government was pursuing the development of new and renewable sources of energy, to cut down on the country’s huge oil bill.
Mr. Paulwell, who was speaking at a ‘Wood and Water – Energy and Life’ Seminar at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) auditorium in Kingston on October 7, informed that an Energy Efficiency Unit was recently established in the Ministry, to spearhead the programme of developing alternative energy sources including the use of hydropower, solar, biomass and biogas, and to encourage greater efficiency in energy use.
A number of projects are already underway, including the development of a small commercial 224-kilowatt windmill farm at Munro College in St. Elizabeth. The power from the plant is being sold to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo).
In addition, a second wind farm will be coming on stream by mid-2004 and this will be constructed in Wigton, Manchester at a cost of US$25 million. The PCJ through its subsidiary, Wigton Farms Limited, will operate this facility. The capacity output of the farm is 20.7 megawatts and it is expected to provide an average of seven megawatts given the annual average wind speed.
Minister Paulwell informed that with respect to hydropower, a 23-megawatt capacity has been installed in the JPSCo system.
Mentioning the Bogue combined cycle plant in St. James, which is being developed at a cost of about $100 million, Mr. Paulwell said when completed, the facility would produce electricity 40 per cent more efficiently than the current average conversion in the JPSCo operation.
Turning to the area of solar energy, Mr. Paulwell said that water heaters and photovoltaic cells, which use the energy of the sun to produce electricity, were becoming increasingly widespread and the PCJ, which is the implementing agency for new and renewable sources of energy projects and programmes was presently strengthening their capacity in the area.
Declaring that the price of energy was one of the major challenges facing Jamaica, Mr. Paulwell said, “as a commodity, it is the single most costly imported item.”
Citing statistics, he indicated that country’s oil bill had increased from US$435 million for 21.7 million barrels in 1997 to US$688 million for 23.9 million barrels in 2000.
He noted further, that with energy imports costing almost US$2 million per day and given the uncertain future of oil prices, Jamaica could well see an oil bill in excess of US$700 million this year.
“The reality is that we are heavily dependent on petroleum to satisfy our energy needs. In fact, over 90 percent of our total energy needs are met from imported oil. We must, as a people, become conscious about energy usage and take practical steps to reduce consumption. If we are able to conserve and save even 10 percent, the saving of $200 million per year could finance other needy projects,” the Minister stated.
Stressing that the use of biomass and biogas could not be ignored, Minister Paulwell said it was only by developing these resources and improving the efficiency levels, that the country could reduce its dependence on imported energy.
Stating that only about 10 percent of the country’s energy needs were from indigenous resources, Mr. Paulwell said the country was blessed with an abundance of sunshine, wind and water and “we must develop these to their full potential as alternatives to fossil fuels.”
He urged the private sector to get involved in these projects, as they could prove to be profitable. The seminar was held in recognition of National Wood and Water Day and highlighted the over five years of research in fuel wood production by the Ministry.

JIS Social