Reducing Jamaica’s High Energy Bill


Head of the Energy Efficiency Unit in the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, Cezley Sampson has underlined concerns expressed by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and Finance Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, about rising oil prices, declaring that the sugar industry offered the best and most commercially viable opportunity to impact on the nation’s energy bill.
Prime Minister Patterson and Dr. Davies’ concerns were highlighted during their contribution to the 2004/05 Budget Debate in Gordon House.
In 1998, Jamaica spent approximately US$314.4 million on fuel, however, last year, the figure soared to some US$813 million. According to Mr. Patterson, if the trend continued, the indications were that by the end of 2004 the nation’s energy bill would reach US$1 billion.
Speaking with JIS News, Mr. Sampson said that the country’s fuel cost, which used to make up about 14 per cent of the nation’s import bill, was now 24 per cent and could reach a third of import cost if the present rate of usage continued. “What we are spending on fuel oil, our export just about covers it,” Mr. Sampson observed, adding that this would put pressure on the country’s foreign exchange rate.
He asserted that the sugar industry had the potential to produce about 100- megawatt of electricity from bagasse, a bi-product of sugar cane, and to sell about 70 per cent of this to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) during crop time.
Currently, the sugar industry produces some 30-megawatt of electricity from bagasse for its own use. Mr. Sampson explained that outside of crop time, the industry could combine bagasse with other biomass sources, such as solid waste, fuel wood and coal for its own use instead of buying electricity from JPSCo.
Additionally, he said that significant savings could be made if another 20,000 hectares of land were put into sugar cane production in order to produce ethanol for use as transportation fuel, while at the same time increasing the amount of bagasse that was used for energy.
Mr. Sampson told JIS News that the government was looking at the possibility of converting 10 per cent of the country’s fuel oil to ethanol and to displace MTBE, an environmentally hazardous product found in gasoline that is recommended for phasing out, in accordance with international standards.
The move, Mr. Sampson said, was pivotal because there had been a rapid increase in the number of motor vehicles imported in recent times. “Whereas our increase in terms of the rate of consumption is about three per cent, the share of energy use (for transportation) has gone up from about 14 per cent to about 28 per cent,” he pointed out.
While not calling for a restriction on the importation of motor vehicles, Mr. Sampson said that there was the need to restrict the frequency with which motor vehicles were used. He observed that for a non-oil producing country, the price that consumers paid for gasoline was “extremely low”.
“We charge about 62 cents on a gallon (of petrol, while) Trinidad which has oil, charges 90 cents,” he pointed out, and reasoned that if the price of a product was expensive, then there was an incentive to conserve and if the price of a product was low, then there would be extravagance.
“At some point in time, we are going to have to recognise that we cannot maintain this price. It is a luxury in terms of what we face,” he warned.
The Energy Efficiency Unit, which is an agency of the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, was established by government to operate as a focal point for a number of agencies to ensure consistency in the application of the government’s energy conservation policy.

JIS Social