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JIS News

In the first quarter of 2009, the Government of Jamaica took a proactive step to reduce the country’s energy bill, requiring its ministries and agencies to reduce their energy consumption by 15 per cent for 2009/2010.
Reducing the country’s energy bill is a daunting task, but one that is necessary if jobs are to be saved and the country’s economy improved.
In an International Energy Agency report published in 2006, energy experts noted that private and public commercial buildings cost Jamaica around $16 billion in electricity bills yearly. Around 65 per cent of the energy cost of a typical Jamaican commercial office building is attributed to air conditioning.
In keeping with the Government’s thrust to reduce its energy consumption, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security implemented a number of conservation strategies at three of its offices in the Corporate Area. Since then, working with the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC), the Ministry has been able to save $6 million from a nine per cent reduction in energy consumption.
Director of Corporate Planning in the Research and Planning Unit at the Ministry, Andrea Patterson Morris, says that, given the scarcity of resources, the Ministry took a creative staff-based approach to reduce its energy consumption.
“We started, at first, with very simple things, because we knew that in order to get our energy consumption down, we would also need some investments,” she said.
“Not having the capital, we started with what we call ‘low hanging fruits’. This includes getting the support of the staff members to do various things to reduce energy consumption,” Mrs. Patterson Morris explains to JIS News.
“We asked the staff to do simple things like turn off the lights, computers, and air conditioning units when they are not in use. The staff responded quite well to the situation”, she reveals.
She adds that the staff support was so overwhelming, that it was easy to find energy ‘monitors’ and ‘champions’ from the different departments and floors to monitor their respective floors and recommend intervention, where necessary.
“These persons are the ones who showed high levels of interest from the different floors, and we trained them to become leaders for their floors. They had the task of ensuring that lights were not on when not needed, if there is a broken pipe or AC unit they would report it immediately for repairs,” she outlines.
Mrs. Patterson Morris, who is also the energy coordinator for the Ministry, states that one of the keys to making the strategies work was the involvement of senior members of staff, who led by example with respect to practising conservation procedures.
“The Minister (Hon. Pearnel Charles) turns off his AC unit or keeps it at 24 degrees. He walks up the stairs, instead of using the elevator. When the staff sees this, they are motivated to continue the process, as everyone is playing their part,” Mrs. Patterson Morris points out.
To spark further interest among the staff, the Ministry, under the guidance of the Jamaica Productivity Centre, decided on a competition between different blocks at the Heroes Circle and North Street locations. She says that an audit of the blocks was conducted and the results posted. Based on these results, persons and blocks were rewarded for their efforts.
She also emphasises that the audit was done on a bi-monthly basis, to ensure the culture change in the staff is adhered to. She says that other steps taken by the Ministry included the removal of excessive lighting, changing light bulbs and alternate use of elevators.
Productivity Specialist at the JPC, Yvette Batts, who worked closely with the Ministry on the project, says that one of the first things she recommended was for the Ministry to focus on the areas that have the greatest impact on its total energy bill.
“Using the Pareto Principle, we actually narrowed it down to two buildings which contributed to more than 80 per cent of the total electricity cost that the Ministry incurred. Once we did that, we put in place an organisational structure to drive and lead the programme,” she explains.
Ms. Batts adds that a number of other strategies were implemented, such as sensitising the key drivers in energy conservation principles, and promoting the objectives of the programme which is, how much energy they were trying to reduce and why.
She tells JIS News that communication was the key and, as such, a measurement and reporting system was put in place to keep track of the changes.
“This tracking system was supported by a communication strategy, which was to keep the programme visible and the staff in the know. On the technical side, we did an energy audit to identify all the potential savings that were possible and to use that for long-term planning and implementation,” Ms. Batts points out.
The Productivity Specialist says that while the initial programme focused on the “no-cost or lost cost” initiatives, the audits helped to quantify the targets that were set to become more meaningful.
She explains that, in the long term, the audits showed that there are maintenance related items that involve things like, replacing the older computer screens which are the CRT type screen, because they use more energy and instead use the LCD flat screens which are more efficient.
She also recommends the re-insulation of the chilled water pipes that run through the buildings, which are exposed to the sun when the insulation breaks down. This is critical to the process of saving, although there will be the problem of getting enough capital to carry out the process, she says.
Ms. Batts reveals that while capital is a problem, the JPC is currently looking at alternative models of energy efficiency projects, which explore alternative financing and partnership agreements. This will involve the use of energy services companies, which can manage the cost of doing the installations and the retrofits. The partners in the contract agreement will then share the savings. This will help to alleviate the problem of not having capital.
While Ms. Batts expects the programme to continue to have a significant impact on the Ministry’s effort to save on energy, she admits that there is room for more savings at all the locations on a long-term basis.
This will be assisted by the tariff rate change by the Jamaica Public Service Company which was recently implemented at the Ministry.