JIS News

The government of Jamaica, in response to the steady increase in oil prices, has instituted an energy conservation and efficiency programme, targeted at public and private sector agencies and homeowners.The move is designed to cut down on the country’s huge oil bill, which is expected to reach US$1billion this year.
As part of the programme, a multi million dollar conservation strategy has been implemented at four of the country’s hospitals, namely the Bustamante Children’s Hospital in Kingston, Cornwall Regional in Montego Bay, Princess Margaret in St. Thomas and the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital.
Hospitals account for 9 per cent of total energy use and initial estimates are that the hospitals should see about 20 percent savings in their electricity bills as a result of the programme.
The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), which is implementing the nationwide conservation programme, has allocated $70 million to the installation of energy efficiency units in hospitals to save on power used for water, light and heating, with the government contributing $3.5 million.
Dr. Cezley Sampson, Head of the Energy Efficiency Unit in the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, tells JIS News that progress has been made at the Bustamante Children’s Hospital, which is now receiving all of its hot water from solar energy. A power factor correction unit will be installed at the facility, in addition to fluorescent lighting systems and motion sensors. Dr. Sampson says that the contract for the power factor correction system has been awarded and the work should be finished within a few weeks.
Meanwhile, engineers have been contracted to do the design work at Cornwall Regional, which needs a new central air conditioning system to replace the existing unit. Plans are also in place to make improvements to the entity’s lighting system.
At the Princess Margaret Hospital, focus is being placed on putting in solar water heaters, installing occupancy sensors and padding the steam generation distribution lines, while energy efficient lighting systems are being placed at St. Ann’s Bay and the facility’s air-conditioning system is being improved.
The conservation efforts have also been extended to the rural electrification programme, where the PCJ has been introducing photovoltaic streetlights across the island, especially in remote communities.
A total of 17,000 homes are not connected to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) grid and the company has said that connection would prove too costly.
Dr. Sampson points out that 45 homes between St. Catherine and St. Ann have been installed with the photovoltaic systems under the Demand Side Management Programme. He notes that a number of streetlights were also erected in St. Ann but these were vandalized and had to be removed.
In the meantime, he indicates that further research would be carried out, to determine “which of the areas it is economic to do good connection and which areas it is not economic and those which would be designated for further studies in terms of photovoltaic lighting”.
Investors and private householders are also being encouraged to conserve, by purchasing energy efficient system for their homes and offices. An Energy Efficiency Fund has been proposed, to provide wholesale financing to householders and private sector investors to finance energy efficiency units in buildings.
Dr. Sampson informs that a Cabinet submission has been prepared with the hope that a decision will be taken soon, as to the operation of the fund.
Already, a US$45,000 grant has been received from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to provide two technical experts to help establish the fund as soon as Cabinet has taken the decision.
He explains that under the Fund, the government will provide money to finance energy efficiency in buildings. The fund will also on-lend to certified financial institutions and these institutions will then lend to end-users. Meanwhile, Dr. Sampson says, discussions are ongoing with the Bureau of Standards regarding improvements to the existing building code to make the energy standards for all buildings, commercial or otherwise, mandatory.
He says that the Institute of Engineers has proved integral in this regard, as the Institute has taken the leadership in assisting to develop the energy and building codes.
But even as the government seeks to put conservation measures in place, effort is also being made to diversify the energy base and increase renewable capacity.
The country’s renewable energy capacity is at 43 megawatts and over the last few years, the PCJ has funded research to determine capacity to be gained from hydropower, wind, solar technology and biomass.In July, a 20-megawatt wind farm was opened in Manchester and it is expected that it will supply the JPSCo with enough energy to service more than 25,000 average households. Wind speed studies continue at other local across the island.
There has also been success with using solar technology to produce photovoltaic and solar thermal systems, but the country lacks the potential for large-scale hydroelectricity generation.
In terms of biomass, with research indicting that it may not be economically feasible to establish commercial fuel wood plantations, the PCJ is looking at the potential of the sugarcane industry to provide energy.
Studies indicate that 35 megawatts of electricity could be supplied in the out of crop season for the JPSCo grid and 15 megawatts during crop time. One other option, which is being explored, is the use of gasification technology, which is the production of energy from bagasse.
In the meantime, the Ministry’s public education campaign, which began in June under the theme ‘Energy Conservation Makes Cent'”, will continue until December.
“We are hoping that the public will have a better understanding of government’s policy with respect to energy and energy efficiency and that people will be better informed as to what they can do to improve their energy efficiency,” Dr. Sampson notes. He also says a market research firm has been engaged to carry out an impact assessment “to gauge the effectiveness of the programme.”

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