JIS News

The continued rise in the cost of oil on the international market has triggered increases in the cost of locally produced energy, which has had a negative ‘domino’ effect on Jamaica’s development, the economy and the people’s way of life.

With this in mind, the country’s newly elected Government has embarked on an almost ‘evangelical’ mission to find ways to reduce the cost of locally produced energy and has sanctioned investigations into a potpourri of possible solutions.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), Hon. Phillip Paulwell, says the Government is willing to consider all feasible proposals aimed at easing the burden of high energy costs on Jamaicans.

While unveiling the conceptual drawings for construction of the Jamaica Public Service’s (JPS) new multi-million dollar hydro-electric power plant in Maggotty,

St. Elizabeth, on March 15, the Minister pointed out that the high cost of energy, both in terms of transport fuel and electricity, is the biggest issue affecting Jamaicans.

The Government is now working with a National Energy Policy 2009-2030, which aims to secure Jamaica’s energy future, and points the way forward in the development of alternative sources of energy. 

The Scientific Research Council (SRC) is one of the agencies that are giving strong support to the policy, and is doing research into using solid waste to produce energy.

At a recent workshop at the University of Technology (UTech) to examine, discuss and expose entrepreneurial opportunities in solid waste, it was disclosed that there has been a gradual but deliberate shift globally in how solid waste is handled and treated. 

“It’s not about treating waste for waste treatment sake, it’s about making solid waste a resource and that has to be at the forefront of everythingwe do,” emphasisedManager of the Process Development Division of the SRC, Julia Brown.

Since 1993, with assistance from the German Government, much has been accomplished by the SRC in respect of research, and the implementation of various technologies for waste management.  Several protocols have also been developed for the treatment of different kinds of waste.

One system which the SRC has patented in the bio-digester septic tank. “When we did the first bio-digester septic tank in Liguanea (Kingston), they never used liquid gas again. Breakfast and dinner are cooked using bio-gas.  What we also did was to connect the garden and kitchen waste to the system, so it gave them more gas flexibility. We also have a few places that produce bio-gas from sewage, but we have to be careful that we do the due diligence, because it’s also a cultural thing that we have to deal with,” Miss Brown tells JIS News.

She points out that bio-gas is also used on a dairy facility and a pig farm, with the energy used for cooking, lighting and refrigeration.  Several farms and schools are also involved in using the gas for cooking and lighting, she adds. 

Another source of energy generation highlighted by Miss Brown is sewage, which she describes as more than just a nuisance.  In fact, she says the proper harnessing of this material can provide an energy generation solution and a significant financial opportunity.

She notes that in Jamaica, millions of dollars, time and resources are spent annually to get rid of sewage, but in other countries it is handled differently to produce energy, which could also be put on the grid.

Miss Brown tells JIS News that agro processing waste can also be a good source for producing energy, as the material is potent and has significant potential to generate energy if harnessed properly.  “It’s all about the investment,” she says.

Europe and other developed countries, she points out,  are getting out of land-fills and instead  are strengthening their systems to separate waste, adding that currently some 50 million tonnes of waste are treated, generating electricity for close to 21 million persons and  heat for about 13 million persons.


By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO