JIS News

With countries worldwide scrambling to find ways to minimize the costs to consumers as oil prices continue to soar on the world market, the Jamaican government has been assiduously implementing measures to cushion the effects locally.
As part of the planned interventions over the short term, Jamaicans will soon be able to borrow funds from the country’s Energy Fund to purchase energy saving devices. Additionally developers will be mandated to utilize energy saving devices as part of the requirements under the new building code.
The attempt forms part of an extensive massive energy conservation all media campaign to encourage increased energy conservation to reduce the country’s spiraling oil bill and is set to get off the ground this November. The intention is also to allow persons to fully appreciate the role they can play in alleviating the burden of higher energy prices with which the country is now faced.
The implementation of the conservation campaign is one of the suggestions coming out of a high level Energy Retreat in Montego Bay last weekend, where directors and senior managers of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), Petrojam, Petrojam Ethanol, Petcom, Wigton Wind Farm among other partners, met to look at the worldwide oil crisis and what measures could be put in place to reduce the burden on the consuming public, as well as work being done to develop alternative energy sources.
Commerce, Science and Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell in a JIS News interview says that with the perceived shortage of the commodity and reports of problems in the Middle East and increased demand in China and India, “there is absolutely no control over where the price will go”.
“We just have to, in our way, try and conserve and be more efficient users of what we are consuming,” he points out. “So onwards from November, you won’t see any special month or day that will be dedicated to this thing (conservation). It is going to be every single day of the year and it’s going to continue even if we see the situation alleviating,” the Minister informs.
Gas prices have doubled since January, prompting the government to intervene in the sector over the last two weeks to absorb the 50 per cent rise in the price of petrol and the more than $11 per litre increase in the price of kerosene. The temporary absorption measure has however not been sustained and consumers have been paying the full costs at the pumps.
In the meantime however the Commerce Minister says Jamaica was leading the way in the region with regard to alternatives to oil. “Through PetroCaribe, we have been able to advance for greater amount of resources to be placed in the region for more work to be done in the use of wind energy, solar, hydro power, bio-mass and bio gas,” the Minister points out, adding that by early next year, Jamaica would be moving towards expanding the Wigton Wind farm in Manchester.
On the recent PetroCaribe agreement, the Minister made it clear that Venezuela was able to offer Jamaica the special concessionary financing arrangement, but they were not in a position to offer discount on the prices because of that country’s own agreement with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Minister Paulwell assures however, that following the completion of the expansion and upgrading exercise for the state owned refinery (Petrojam) in the next two years, the country will be in a position to purchase a cheaper crude from Venezuela, resulting in a reduction in the prices being passed on to consumers. “It will be only at that time after the refinery has gone through this upgrade, that we will be able to pass on those lower prices to the consumer,” he says.
In the meantime the Commerce, Science and Technology Minister is reinforcing the calls for a concerted effort towards energy conservation, nationally.
“We have to recognize that for us to survive, for us to be able to live, we have to decide now, once and for all, that our lifestyle will have to be affected to achieve greater energy conservation and greater efficiency,” he says.
Pointing out that in 2001 Jamaica’s energy bill was under US$400 million, and that it has now climbed to approximately US$1.2 billion, with constant increases in petroleum products, Mr. Paulwell says his appeal is against the background that Jamaica is a non oil producing state, having to import over 90 per cent of its energy needs.
Meanwhile the PCJ Group is conducting assessments of the energy situation in Jamaica. At a recent retreat of that group it was unanimously decided that focus must now be put on conservation and efficiency measures nationally, in a much more systematic long-term approach, recognizing that the effort must be made to influence changes in the Jamaican lifestyle.
Giving an example of the kind of influence on lifestyle changes that is expected, he points to the presence of the current campaign advocating the use of 87 octane fuel over 90 octane, which would be more cost effective.
“Before we started the campaign, the usage was just about 50 per cent 87 octane and 50 per cent 90 octane. We have been emphasizing that it really does not enhance your car’s efficiency to go for the higher octane; all it does is to ensure that you spend more on the fuel. There has been some dramatic shift, and we now have roughly 75 per cent of our people using 87 Octane and 25 per cent using 90 octane,” he points out said.
Minister Paulwell however notes that there is still much work to be done to spread the message of conservation which can only be done through a national effort.
In the meantime as part of its activities for October which has been designated as Energy Efficiency and Conservation Month the PCJ is conducting a series of seminars, media appearances, press placements and a semi permanent exhibit on display at its Trafalgar Road headquarters. A check up day for energy conservation will see a team of PCJ engineers undertaking an audit and review of daily energy conservation activities and methods implemented by businesses.
Although prices vary globally many governments have been striving to keep fuel cost below market levels while some are maintaining stiff taxes on petroleum products. According to forecasts by the International Energy Agency, global demand for oil this year would be 83.4 million barrels per day, an increase of 1.3 million barrels a day, or 1.5 per cent increase over the 2004 figure.
Furthermore the Agency said although global markets had adjusted rapidly to the impact of several hurricanes over a fairly active season, recovery was conditional on many factors such as further interventions on the part of policy makers based on happenings in the market.