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Beginning in June, the Government will commence accepting bid submissions from investors to develop projects aimed at generating up to 115 megawatts of energy from renewable sources, which could potentially reduce Jamaica’s oil imports expenditure by US$55 million.

Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, who made the disclosure during his 2013/14 Budget Debate presentation in Parliament on Wednesday, April 24, said installation of the 115 megawatts of energy will yield 12.5 per cent of Jamaica’s electricity capacity generated from renewables, thus bringing the country to almost 50 per cent of its goal of 30 per cent of generated from alternative sources, by 2030.

“The 115 megawatts of renewable energy will also provide some 400,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year, and will save Jamaica the equivalent of over 700,000 barrels of imported oil per year amounting to US$55 million annually,” Mr. Paulwell added.

Mr. Paulwell, who spoke under the theme: “Fuelling Our Own Growth”, said the administration is “aggressively” pursuing this goal, which, he informed, got underway in 2012, with several policy shifts to encourage and facilitate investment in renewable energy projects, particularly by the private sector.

These, he said, included removing the proviso that previously gave the state-run Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) exclusive right to develop all renewable energy projects, and introducing net billing to facilitate the sale of excess electricity derived from renewable sources by self-generators, to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company.

The Minister said subsequent to removing the PCJ’s proviso, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for procurement of up to the 115 megawatts of renewable energy.

Mr. Paulwell contended that opening of the bids will present “an opportunity for local investors to get involved, and provide some or all of that energy generation capacity.”

Regarding net billing, the Energy Minister informed that, to date, the Ministry has granted over 50 licenses. He noted several challenges arising, including the standard of photo voltaic (PV) system designs submitted not being consistent with stipulations in the Electric Lighting Act, which are being addressed.

“We have, since, mandated the Government Electrical Inspectorate (GEI) to work with the applicants in bringing their installations up to par. Within the last 12 months, a total of 15 PV systems and one wind system have been certified by the GEI, while another 14 will be inspected this week,” he disclosed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Paulwell announced that he will be meeting with the administration of the HEART Trust/NTA to discuss the prospects of facilitating a training programme for electrical inspectors.

This, he explained, is against the background of an “urgent” demand for trained inspectors, consequent on increased residential solar installations, in order that “we can effectively handle the number of applications for renewable systems.”

By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter