Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz, has welcomed a private-sector-led project that will strengthen energy resilience in Jamaica by accelerating the adoption of distributed solar energy.
Through an alliance of Jamaican and international organisations, with funding support of US$4 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the three-year undertaking will build resilient distributed energy in the tourism sector and demonstrate the impact of community solar energy.
Distributed energy or distributed generation refers to a variety of technologies that generate electricity at or near where it will be used, such as solar panels. Distributed generation may serve a single structure, such as a home or business, or it may be part of a microgrid (a smaller grid that is also tied into the larger electricity delivery system).
Speaking at the official launch of the Jamaica Energy Resilience Alliance, during a virtual ceremony hosted at the White Marl location of LASCO Distributors Limited in St. Catherine on Wednesday (January 13), Mr. Vaz said the initiative “will assist in the creation of a resilient and robust energy sector as we enter the decade of growth and development towards the year 2030”.
“As a Government, we are cognisant that the renewable energy sources diversify our energy supplies and reduce our dependence on the non-renewable fossil fuels, which will eventually be depleted,” he said.
Mr. Vaz noted that over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2018, Jamaica has significantly invested in diversifying its energy mix, moving from petroleum accounting for 95 per cent of electricity generation to 74.1 per cent, with wind increasing from 2.4 per cent to 10 per cent; and hydro from 2.6 per cent to 2.8 per cent.
Additionally, he noted that natural gas now accounts for 11.1 per cent of electricity installed capacity, while solar generates two per cent. He added that the 10-year period has also seen the pioneering of several renewable energy projects, primarily wind and solar technologies.
“This growth, which we see in the energy [sector] was only possible through strong partnerships with our international stakeholders and partners, who have invested heavily in this sector. As such, Jamaica is now a regional leader in renewable energy, boasting some of the largest solar and wind facilities,” he said, citing the 20-megawatt Content Solar, the 37-megawatt Eight Rivers facility, the 62.7-megawatt Wigton Wind Farm, and the 37-megawatt BMR wind facilities.
Additionally, Mr. Vaz pointed out that customers of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) are licensed to generate electricity using their own renewable sources and selling the excess to JPS under the net billing arrangement.
“We are on a mission to secure Jamaica’s energy future through diversification and the provision of alternative sustainable and environmentally friendly sources of energy. By 2025, we will be generating approximately 22 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources and well on our way in developing an electric mobility sector,” he said.
The Science, Energy and Technology Minister said that the anticipated impact of this diversification will result in less vulnerability to external economic shocks, more immunity for the negative effects of geo-political tensions, reduced energy prices and 100 per cent electricity access and reduction in the country’s carbon footprint.
“Our eyes are now set on the next tranche of renewable projects, which will move us closer to achieving our target of 30 per cent renewables in electricity generation by 2030,” he said.
Mr. Vaz pointed out that the country could not have transformed its energy landscape without the stakeholders, both locally and internationally, who have invested in the sector and partnered with the Ministry and the Government of Jamaica
“I do hope that this new partnership will propel us even further as we diversify our energy sector and secure Jamaica’s energy future,” he said.
Led by the management consulting company, Cadmus Group LLC, based in the United States, the Jamaica Energy Resilience Alliance includes solar energy developers that will mobilise up to US$50 million in investment funds to support solar project development.
The alliance’s major activity will focus on reducing key barriers to solar energy and battery storage adoption by Jamaican hotels and other businesses.
The group will directly engage with these entities to help them understand the business case and technical feasibility of installing solar on their sites, provide informational resources to inform decisions and demystify the installation processes, and provide channels for accessing financing from alliance partners.
The programme will also offer training for Jamaican solar installers to strengthen the sector through workforce development.
The members of the alliance are the Jamaican Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA); LASCO Distributors Ltd, which will pilot a solar energy and battery storage system; the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, which will provide research and engineering support and solar inspection; and renewable energy developers Wigton Wind Farms and WRB Energy.