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Paulwell to engage local investors on Petrojam talks

Published:Tuesday | February 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Phillip Paulwell (centre), minister of science, technology, energy and mining, poses questions to Sherife AbdelMessih (left), CEO of Future Energy Corporation, while Wesley Hughes, CEO of the PetroCaribe Development Fund, looks on during a Future of Energy in the Caribbean forum that started yesterday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston. The forum continues today.

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell says he will be holding talks with private-sector interests who have signalled a willingness to invest in the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam.

Late last year, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President Warren McDonald said he wanted the private sector to look seriously at taking over the ownership and operation of Petrojam.

Paulwell also told stakeholders in the energy sector yesterday that Jamaica and Venezuela were in the final stages of discussion regarding the upgrading and expansion of Petrojam. The energy minister said he expected some positive developments to take place by mid 2016.

He lauded the Venezuelans for the PetroCaribe arrangement, noting that without this initiative, the Jamaican economy would have been "in shambles, not only during the period when the price of oil went over US$100, but through the 10-year experience of this very useful and worthwhile facility."

Speaking during a conference on the future of energy in the Caribbean, hosted by Future Energy Corporation at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, the energy minister said there were bright prospects for renewable energy in Jamaica.

'70s energy crisis

He said the energy crisis in the 1970s negatively impacted the economy, noting that in the 1960s, "Jamaica was a growing economy".

He said with the first energy shock in 1973, "we have really not recovered, even though we have had fluctuations in the price of energy over the years.

"What we are seeing now emerging in the Jamaican economy with the solutions that we are providing for energy - we are going to get back on a growth trajectory as we were between the 1960s and up to 1973. That is my view, and I believe that we are well poised for it," he stressed.

Paulwell told the gathering that

liquefied natural gas would become available in Jamaica at the end of April when the Bogue plant in Montego Bay will be commissioned.

"It is going to be transformed now to use natural gas and we are anxiously awaiting the completion of that project."

He urged Jamaicans to utilise more renewable energy, especially solar, where the price has fallen dramatically over the years.

The energy minister said Jamaica would be mounting a major campaign later this year to push for the removal of the Common External Tariff on solar water heaters.

Commenting on the Wigton Windfarm, which was established in 2006, Paulwell said the facility has been expanded, to date, to 60 megawatts of wind capacity owned by the country.