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Jamaicans use electricity inefficiently, says JPS boss - Energy usage for consumption outweighs production

Published:Sunday | December 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
Preesident & CEO of JPS, Kelly Tomblin.

Jamaica's growth remains constrained by its inefficient usage of energy, which equates to one of the worst in Latin America and the Caribbean, says Kelly Tomblin, president & CEO of power utility Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).

Concurrently, Tomblin indicated on Friday that JPS will sign its power purchase agreement next week with Eight Rivers, the latest renewable project set to build a solar plant.

Energy efficiency is now an integral part of the vision of JPS, the monopoly distributor of electricity, to become a more modern and cleaner energy provider, but it wants its customers to do the same.

JPS benefits directly by making money from providing energy conservation services and products to homes and businesses. It also indirectly grows the economy which fuels its revenues.

"Jamaica's energy intensity of approximately 4,800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per US$1,000 of gross domestic product is one of the highest in Latin America," said Tomblin, the featured guest at the members at the regular Jamaica Exporters' Association Talking Export Speaker Series on Friday.

Hotels can save 107 gigawatt hours (gwh) of the 446 gwh of energy the sector consumes annually by adopting energy-efficient solutions, reasoned Tomblin in referencing a study from Chenact. That equates to some US$21 million annually based on Tomblin's gauge that the sector spends about US$0.20 per kWh. She indicated that the amount which the sector can save equates to third-highest in the Caribbean next to Cuba and Dominican Republic.

Energy efficiency measures tend to include optimising air-conditioning units, installing efficient LED lights, and upgrading refrigerators and dryers.

The potential saving attributable to hospitals range up to 39 per cent from investments of $21.4 million in energy-efficiency measures; banks and back office operations can save up to 20 per cent from spending of $27 million; office buildings can save 28 per cent from $19.5 million; cafÈs and restaurants can save up to 50 per cent from $2.1 million; gyms can save 32 per cent by spending $3.8 million; private schools can save 21 per cent from $1.6 million; and homes can save 30 per cent from spending $600,000.

 

Energy 'smart' street lights

 

Traditional street lights, which are managed by JPS, are to be replaced with energy 'smart' lights nationwide, aimed at saving 55 per cent on consumption.

Tomblin herself photographs thermostats in local hotel rooms, which usually reads in the 60 degree Fahrenheit range, in order to make a point to management about the inefficiency.

"I ask the owners, 'Why is the hotel so cold?'. They say the customer demands it," she said. "There is this idea that we are trying to please the hotel customer base and that leads to a lot of waste."

The energy consumed by JPS customers grew by an annual 5.0 per cent for the first time in years.

"I hope it's not waste that driving that growth," she said.

Utility markets typically have two daily energy peaks - one in the daytime and one at night - whereas in Jamaica it climbs continually from morning to night, Tomblin said.

Peak usage is from 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m., she indicated.

"It's a leisure peak, not an economic development peak. So this matters to everyone because that fuel I am burning at night is sometimes twice as expensive as the fuel we burn in the day," she said.

JPS continues to steadily diversify from solely heavy oil fuel to include liquefied natural gas and some 115 megawatts of renewables. The power utility is also embarking on a smart grid and smart city project which links energy conservation.

Earlier this year, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) picked Eight Rivers as the top candidate under the 37 MW renewable energy project. The company led by partner Angella Rainford proposed a 33.1 MW solar plant, which would supply energy to the national grid at about 8.54 US cents per kWh.

Eight Rivers plans to invest around US$48.7 million in the plant. Rainford's company, Rekamniar Frontier Ventures, joined forces with French group Neoen to form the Eight Rivers Energy Company to mount the bid. Eight Rivers beat out 19 rival project proposals received by the OUR.

"The 37 MW project is finalising the PPA and now it's with the OUR and should be completed maybe on the 5th of December," Tomblin said.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com