The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has launched an energy efficiency project targeted at Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
The project, called DBJ GreenBiz, is aimed at providing technical and financial assistance in energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy to SMEs.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, lauded the programme at its official launch on June 20, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge & Conference Centre, in Kingston. He described it as a “significant initiative that will boost both energy conservation and the use of renewable energies."
The State Minister explained that one of the strategies of Government is to diversify the country’s fuel sources, noting that oil currently accounts for 90 per cent of Jamaica’s fuel cost.
“Right now, 10 per cent of our energy is generated by renewable sources. We are aiming, by 2030, to move that to 30 per cent… because as a country we can’t continue to depend on the vagaries of what happens on the world oil markets,” he said.
“The issue of energy is probably the number one issue for individuals, householders, and businesses, small and large, because so much of the operating cost goes into paying that energy bill,” the Minister added.
Meanwhile, Energy Project Manager at the DBJ, Christopher Brown, said that small and medium-sized businesses “are hit hard by high energy costs and they can’t stay competitive."
He noted that with DBJ GreenBiz, they will be able to access cheaper and environmentally friendly sources of power, and save money.
The project is a joint initiative with the Inter-American Development Bank, which gave a US$593,000 grant, while the DBJ contributed US$214,000. It will promote and demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency, energy conservation and investment in renewable energy, within local and medium-sized enterprises.
It has three components: a study to assess the demand for energy efficiency and alternate sources of energy; a training programme for certified energy managers who would be able to assess the energy needs of prospective borrowers and; a public education campaign through the use of demonstration projects in SMEs and various sectors. Parts one and two of the project are complete and the public education phase is now beginning.
Mr. Brown explained that currently, eight small businesses covering several industries have been identified to be part of the demonstration project. An energy audit was done on these companies and steps taken to help them become energy efficient. It is expected that they will save up to 30 per cent per annum on their electricity bills.
The project supports the operation of the DBJ PetroCaribe Energy Fund and is critical to business competitiveness in Jamaica, especially in light of high energy costs relative to that of Trinidadian competitors.
Country Representative of the IDB, Mr. Ancile Brewster, explained that thePetrocaribe SME Fund is a US$1 billion line of credit specifically targeting SMEs. He explained that in Jamaica, a significant amount of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment is generated by SMEs.
He noted that oftentimes the SMEs do not have the capacity to take advantage of the latest cutting edge technology to reduce their energy cost, and commended the DBJ for its approach in this project.
At the completion of the project, it is expected that there will be an increase in the uptake in financing and implementation of energy saving measures within the SMEs.
By Andrea Braham