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Jamaica Public Service to increase electric fleet by December

Published:Friday | July 22, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Dan Theoc, chief financial officer of JPS.

Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) intends to increase its electronic car fleet to five by year end as part of its wider move to implement a smart-grid.

The cars would include Japanese brands, but it still aims to possibly import a high-end US-made Tesla electric car.

"We intend to have five electronic vehicles before the end of the year from at least two manufacturers - Nissan and, most likely, Mitsubishi," said Dan Theoc, chief financial officer at JPS. "We also expect to see much more hybrid vehicles being imported to Jamaica over the upcoming year from the likes of Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Mercedes, just to name a few."

JPS President Kelly Tomblin already drives a Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid electric/petrol powered car. JPS expects Jamaica to keep pace with its expectation that within a decade, electric cars will account for 30 per cent of new cars produced.

The growth of electric cars in Jamaica would require a network of charging stations, which, in turn, could lead to a new revenue stream for JPS. The push forms part of the overall smart-grid plan, which partially aims to increase the usage of JPS's grid during low periods. In order to do this, JPS wants to understand the technology, the regulatory environment, and the supply and demand dynamics around the product.

"Additionally, we believe the electronic vehicles will be a great option for fleet vehicles which return to base every day and vehicles which have a lot of starts and stops, which naturally hurts the fuel efficiency of traditional motor vehicles and gives a huge advantage to electronic vehicles," said Theoc.

"We intend to promote electronic vehicles for our own fleet of meter-reading vehicles, for example, as these are prime examples of vehicles which have a high number of starts and stops each day, which hurts the mileage efficiency and substantially increases the maintenance costs. This would not be the case for electronic vehicles and, once again, the possibility for theft of fuel is eliminated," he reasoned.

Theoc also sees the benefits of electric vehicles for the wider transport sector, which mainly utilises diesel fuel.

"The public buses using diesel are a particular concern, as you can clearly see how bad the pollution is from their exhaust. We believe there will be a good business case for them to switch a significant portion of their fleet to natural gas in addition to the obvious benefits for the environment. Their maintenance costs will be much lower on natural gas and they will likely have much lower instances of theft of fuel," the utility executive said.

Outside of that, JPS argues that electric vehicles and cleaner generating plants running on liquefied natural gas would offer a cleaner energy option for Jamaica.

"At JPS, we fully appreciate that we grow as the economy grows and we need to be focused on sustainable growth. Accordingly, we appreciate the need to be good environmental stewards, especially since we live in a small island state where the impacts of global warming are all too real. You just need to go out to Hellshire Beach to appreciate how significant this impact is," said Theoc.

He adds that the energy sector accounts for about one-third of the oil consumed in Jamaica, and the transport sector an additional third.

JPS expects to reduce its dependence on oil from 95 per cent to 45 per cent over the next two years through the introduction of natural gas and increased use of renewables. Its new gas-fired power plant is expected to be 40 per cent more efficient in its use of fuel, but, more important, the switch to a much cleaner fuel will result in JPS reducing certain air contaminants by up to 99 per cent.

"So, this is not only a great story about fuel diversity but also about finding sustainable energy solutions that are much better for our environment," Theoc said.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com