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There is need to re-orient the country’s fuel mix policy with natural gas, clean coal and renewable resources such as biomass, mini-hydro and wind, Dr. Cezley Sampson, Consultant on Energy and Public Sector Reform, Cabinet Office, has said.
“In the period 1998 to 2005 Jamaica’s import energy bill grew from US$323 million to US$1.35 billion. Our export earning is not sufficient to cover our energy bill.Over this seven-year period demand has grown by less than 20 per cent, whilst the cost has increased five-fold. The high import bill has been a major source of pressure on the Jamaican exchange rate and balance of payment,” he pointed out.
Dr. Sampson, who was speaking at the opening of the Geological Society of Jamaica (GSJ) energy exhibition at the University of the West Indies on November 28, further added that increased electricity prices have seriously impacted the country’s inflation rate, thereby creating pressure on the government.
“Education and health expenditures are being shortchanged, with increasing pressure for government to meet more and more of these costs. Increasing prices have affected affordability right across the income groups and these probably have been reflected in higher levels of theft of electricity, not just by the poor but by commercial enterprises and people living in wealthy areas of the society,” he added.
Addressing the topic, ‘Challenges in the Electricity Sector: Jamaica at the Crosswords’, Dr. Sampson cited alternatives to petroleum based fuel for electricity, and noted that in the United States, less than 3 per cent of public electricity is generated from oil. “The main fuel used for electricity in the US is coal. In China, Australia and Germany coal is the major source for electricity generation and for industrial processes,” he pointed out.
Dr. Sampson noted that if the country was able to replace the old equipment used as base load plants and also meet the new capacity requirements with coal and combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants by 2015, bulk electricity average production cost would be cut to almost 100 per cent.
“This would have a favourable impact on the exchange rate, as the import fuel bill would be smaller comparatively, industry would be more competitive and consumers would benefit from lower prices, hence there would be a beneficial effect also on the inflation levels,” he said.
The exhibition is part of ‘Geosciences for Development Wee’, and it was held under the theme: ‘Jamaica’s Energy Sources’.