As the economy continues to struggle with high electricity costs, citizens are finding it increasingly challenging to pay for the service, resulting in frequent disconnections for many, and payment backlogs.
It is against this background that the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC) has embarked on an Energy Service Company (ESCO) Project, in an effort to conserve on electricity use across the island.
The 36 -month project which is in its implementation phase is being funded by the European Union (EU) at a cost of $65 million.
Executive Director of the JPC, Dr. Charles Douglas says the initiative can increase productivity, and can help to create jobs, and assist in advancing economic growth.
"We expect that the project will also do a number of other things. It will introduce new business modules, in terms of energy efficiency activities. It will also increase dialogue, trust, and confidence among the Jamaican populous,” Dr. Douglas informs.
He mentions that there are several components of the project, which include building public awareness, conducting training workshops, audits, and measurement and verification to determine the possible savings of the plan.
“With this project, the Centre hopes to have an increase in energy effectiveness, as a result of the measures to be implemented. We expect to have an increase in the number of renewable and energy efficiency projects islandwide, to reduce high costs,” he says.
He informs that ECSO Projects are common worldwide, and tends to be very successful in countries where energy prices are extremely high, such as Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dr. Douglas adds that Jamaica in comparison to other Caribbean countries, has one of the highest energy prices, both for electricity and gasoline, hence the reason for introducing the cost effective initiative.
"At the end of the day, we want to see a reduction in the oil import bill, which obviously will help to reduce the foreign expenditure and imported oil, which the country is currently faced with," he stresses.
He adds that unlike Jamaica, some countries receive energy subsidies, both for gasoline and electricity, but “our market is totally liberalised, in that we have no subsidy on electricity or gasoline, so we have to find ways to reduce these high costs”.
He stresses that the ESCO project aims to achieve this, and notes that if consumers conform to the practices of the project, then it will be a success.
Dr. Douglas says that both the private and public sector, because they will be able to invest in energy saving mechanisms that will be beneficial, long term.
Some of the mechanisms he mentions include resorting to energy saving light bulbs, turning of electricity and unplugging electrical equipments once not in use.
“We expect substantial benefits from this initiative to both small and medium enterprises, islandwide. We are anticipating significant savings in the public sector, stemming from ECSO energy savings activities,” he tells JIS News.
He adds that the banking system stands to benefit significantly, because the initiative is expected to drastically reduce energy cost in that sector.
The JPC Director informs that a mid-term and post evaluation will be conducted to determine if the overall objectives of the project, set out to achieve, have been met.
"There will be indicators to identify if the project has achieved success. We will be looking at schools islandwide, as a possible indicator, while we conduct our evaluation to measure the achievements of the project," he says.
He points out that Centre is working to make the project sustainable, because of the positive impacts realised, and hopes that all business sectors will play a part.
“When the project concludes, we would like to have in place, measures that will allow it to be sustainable. We are building the capacity of the project, by getting the schools involved. From this, the hope is to sensitize children, so that they can go home, and encourage their parents to adopt energy efficiency practices” he emphasises.
Dr. Douglas says the Council is grateful for the support from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS), the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), and the Private Sector of Jamaica (PSOJ).
For more information on the ESCO Project, persons can contact the JPC at 922-1598 0r 922- 1948.