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JPPC squeezes more electricity out of fuel, but losses worsen

Published:Wednesday | April 27, 2016 | 12:00 AMCamilo Thame
Jamaica Private Power Company Limited

Jamaica Private Power Company (JPPC) saw its loss position double in 2015.

Its parent, Kenon Holdings, reported US$2 million ($234 million) net loss for last year compared with US$1 million the year before.

The private power producer, which sells electricity to all-island distributor, Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), managed to increase its revenue by four per cent from year-earlier levels to US$45 million in 2015.

This was mainly due to the company increasing its electricity generation from 425 gigawatt hours, or 10 per cent of total national grid's needs, to 445 GWh, of which well over 90 per cent was sold, likely because it has one of the most efficient fossil fuel, or thermal plants in Jamaica.

JPS' system uses a dispatch application that determines the best combination of operating levels for each plant supplying the grid to ensure that energy is provided at the lowest total cost to the consumer.

Last year, JPPC improved the efficiency at its 60 megawatt plant, lowering the heat rate from 8,306 Btu/kWh in 2014 to 7,989 Btu/kWh in 2015.

In other words, it increased the amount of the energy stored in the heavy fuel oil (HFO) that was converted into electricity from 41 per cent to 43 per cent. That is, it used two percentage points more of the HFO's energy to make electricity.

This helped the Rockfort, Kingston-based power producer lower its average fuel cost from US$137 per MWh to US$69 per MWh, albeit a dramatic fall in oil prices contributed more to this improvement. Average sales price, therefore, fell from US$182 per MWh (or J$20 a kWh) in 2014 to US$101 per MWh (or J$12 a kWh).

Indeed, the company's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) improved from US$1 million to US$2 million, but this would not have been enough to cover staff cost, debt servicing and depreciation.

JPPC is the smallest of the power producers that use fossil fuel-based plants. Jamaica Energy Partners and its sister company West Kingston Power Plant, combined, generates about 30 per cent of Jamaica's electricity requirements. JPS produces over 50 per cent.

Some six per cent of the country's electrical energy is derived from hydro and wind, with another three to four percentage points expected to come from 78MW of wind and solar scheduled for commissioning by next year.