JIS News

In light of climbing global oil prices, the Government is actively exploring ways to save on the country’s fuel bill.
The country depends on imported fuel for more than 90 per cent of its energy needs, with petroleum fuel used for transportation, electricity production and the operation of machinery.
Consumption data for 2005 reveal that Jamaica imported some 26.2 million barrels of oil at an approximate cost of US$1,334.9 million.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Kern Spencer, says that although petroleum is crucial to the daily operations of the country, “energy conservation must be a priority, achieved through sustained public engagement and the encouragement of positive lifestyles and cultural changes”.
Senator Spencer acknowledges that “the challenge now is to have short term and long term actions to address the situation of rising energy prices and uncertainty over supply”.
He explains to JIS News that it is against this background that a 2006-2020 Energy Green Paper was developed. The Green Paper outlines strategies for the diversification of the national energy base, as well as for the creation of opportunities to ensure stable, affordable and adequate energy supplies.
Senator Spencer outlines several strategies which could encourage players in the transportation and electricity generation industries to save energy.”Electricity and transportation are two of the primary ways in which energy is employed in society.
In 2005, some 6,044,246 barrels of oil were expended on transportation, while 6,595,038 barrels were expended on electricity. This was almost 50 per cent of Jamaica’s energy consumption,” he tells JIS News.
Furthermore, the State Minister says strong incentive packages should be developed for consumers who have consistently low energy bills, so as to encourage them to use less energy.
Additionally, the building inspectorate should ensure that, “existing and new buildings are significantly more energy efficient and sustainable, by clearly setting a trajectory for the progressive enhancement of building regulations”, the State Minister suggests, adding that this should be led by a revised National Building Code, which must be stringently enforced.
Regarding petrol usage in motor vehicles, Senator Spencer says that, “the transport sector could make a significant contribution to energy demand reduction, through improved vehicle standards and the implementation of competitive and convenient options”.
In the meantime, Special Projects Manager at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Dr. Raymond Wright, says that oil-derived fuels should be used only in special situations where there are few other options available.
“We should be regarding oil as a commodity that is exceptionally precious, and should no longer be used for matters such as generating electricity. We still have to use oil for the transport sector and for petro-chemicals, but for generating electricity, we should be shifting to other fuels, including natural gas and coal in particular,” he says.
According to Dr. Wright, with more prudent energy consumption practices at the level of the household, this expenditure may be significantly reduced. He says efficiency and conservation is Jamaica’s best immediate hope to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported oil, and that there are many benefits to be derived from conserving energy.
Senior Director of Energy in the Ministry, Conroy Watson tells JIS News of these conservation benefits.”It saves on foreign exchange and reduces our vulnerability to debt. It also reduces the cost of production at the local level, and impacts on our exchange rate and rate of inflation,” Mr. Watson explains.
He outlines that one way to promote energy conservation is to utilize sources of alternative energy.
The Senior Director tells JIS News that as it stands now, “our existing indigenous sources, such as wind, hydro, and solar take care of about 10 per cent of our needs, and our intent is to move it to maybe, 20 to 30 per cent. So it means that we would import that much less oil”.
According to Charter President of the Jamaica Solar Energy Association, Dr. Eaton Haughton, solar energy is one source of renewable energy that is often under-estimated.
“The most cost effective way of using solar energy in Jamaica is to produce hot water. Anybody who utilizes an electric water heater to produce hot water is really tantamount to lighting the one hundred dollar bills and put it under the pot to heat that water. Solar water heating should be the order of the day for all Jamaicans who need hot water,” Dr. Haughton emphasizes.
He notes that besides saving money, the use of solar energy has significant environmental benefits.Meanwhile, Director of Research at the Sugar Industry Research Institute, Dr. Earle Roberts, explains that although the use of ethanol as fuel is being explored, there should be speedier moves to have it used on a wider basis.
“Now you can use mixtures of petroleum or gasoline [with ethanol] for up to about 30 per cent, without the need to modify the car engines, but if you want to use higher percentages of ethanol than that, then some modification of the car engines are necessary,” Dr. Roberts explains.

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