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The Government’s move to establish a domestic ethanol and, by extension, a renewable energy industry, will be boosted when it assumes full responsibility for the ethanol refinery situated at Rockfort in Kingston.
Ethanol is a derivative of sugar cane, which is used to partially or fully power motor vehicles in some parts of the world. Energy, Mining and Telecommunications Minister, Clive Mullings, has said that the plant, which is jointly operated by the governments of Jamaica and Brazil, will be taken over fully by the administration in May.
Speaking at the weekly meeting of the Kiwanis Club of East St. Andrew at the Altamont Court Hotel on February 12, Mr. Mullings said there was serious need to consider utilizing renewable energy as an option to fossil fuels, in order to curtail the country’s spiralling energy bill. He pointed out that Jamaica’s oil bill in 2007 was in excess of US$2 billion, which was significantly higher than the 1998 figure of US$300 million, and argued that, “it (energy bill) was crowding out our ability to have real development.”
Sectors which the Minister said consumed the highest volume of electricity and energy included bauxite and transportation. “We’ll have to find a way to wean ourselves from this dependence on fossil fuels,” he emphasized.
“So, the target is that by 2015, or so, we could try to get to 20 per cent of renewables (as part of overall fuel consumption). What type of renewables? Essentially, hydro.and I know that the Jamaica Public Service Company is keen on having more mini hydros. We also have to look at issues of ethanol coming from sugar cane. At this point in time, we have a refinery that we are going to own wholly by May this year (2008),” Mr. Mullings outlined.
The Minister informed that, currently, Jamaica accessed ethanol coming from Brazil destined for the United States under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).
“What we propose to do this year is to develop a domestic industry for ethanol. We propose to have a blend of ethanol (of) at least 10 per cent coming from the gas stations (mixed with regular petrol). So they (stations) will be retrofitted to accommodate that. And, we will be passing legislation to support this,” he pointed out.
He noted that there were “flexi” vehicles in the island, which could operate on up to 85 per cent ethanol, adding that while the technology existed, there was need to get the country to the point where it was self-sufficient in ethanol production.
Mr. Mullings said Jamaica has been exploring for oil, noting that there were possibilities that some would be found. “The question is whether it (oil) is going to be in (sufficient) commercial quantities,” he said.
“Even if we do find sufficient quantities, we must find a way to have the renewables, because we can no longer continue with this dependence on fossil fuels. And it requires a kind of focus, driven not only by the government, but also by each individual, who is going to make that extra effort at energy conservation,” the Minister emphasized.