NESol lights the way for rural communities
Residents of Boswell Heights, rural St Andrew, are expected to usher in the new year with electricity for the first time, facilitated by National Energy Solutions Limited (NESol).
The community is scheduled to receive light before the end of the year, thus extending the islandwide penetration of electricity, which now stands at 97.5 per cent.
The NESol, formerly known as the Rural Electrification Programme (REP), is the organisation tasked with ensuring that Jamaicans have access to electricity.
A department of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, NESol constructs electrical distribution pole lines in rural areas and provides house wiring assistance to householders.
The company is charged with building the infrastructure in various communities, which is then handed over to the country's electricity provider, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), which supplies the electricity.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NESol, Garfield Daley, explained that when the REP was first incorporated in 1975, the main concentration of electricity was in the corporate area. This represented only 49 per cent of the population.
He said he was proud of the growth of the organisation and its ability to bring electricity to most of Jamaica, to the point where there is almost universal coverage.
Daley noted that in the past three years of the programme, NESol has distributed more than 120 pole lines and wired more than 3,000 households.
The CEO said that with funding in place, the organisation's goal is to touch another 5,000 to 10,000 households in 2016.
He said that for some households and communities, their distance from the JPS power grid creates a hindrance to fulfilling the mandate of the organisation.
RENEWABLE ENERGY FIELD
"This is where the solar technology comes in," he said, adding that the organisation was exploring the renewable energy field to gain access to these communities.
This initiative began in 2009 when the mandate of the REP was expanded to include renewable energy solutions.
"The expansion of the mandate has allowed us to look at the broader mix of energy solutions, as the company is exploring the use of hydro, wind, solar and LNG as alternatives for those communities that are inaccessible," Daley said.
He further noted that the company was determined to find solutions to get the country to 100 per cent, as electricity is a very important commodity which contributes immensely to the development of communities.
"The social improvements in these communities are phenomenal ... the economic activities are expanding. There are more shops, furniture-producing businesses, and clothing establishments, such as tailors and dressmakers. The communities come to life, people feel more secure, and feel like they are a part of Jamaica once they receive electricity," he said.
"The residents are usually so overjoyed and grateful. Upon returning to these communities, many times these folks remember us from NESol, and they will stop us and give us food, ground provisions; they are just so happy their lives have been transformed," he added.
For Daley, the lighting ceremonies are always special. "What gives us the greatest push and drive is attending a lighting ceremony. The first time the energy minister flicks a switch and light appears, the joy and excitement that the residents express give great satisfaction," he said.
"I can recall this elderly man from Adam's Valley, Manchester, telling me three years ago, 'I feel like I could die in peace now that I have lived to see Adam's Valley get electricity for the first time'," Daley said.
He said the village was transformed into a semi-town, "with a square, more music and more parties".
NESol has been in communities across the island that many persons have never heard of, including Douglas Castle, St Ann; York Town and Lawson, Clarendon; Anchovy, St James; Banana Ground, Manchester; and Morant Road, St Thomas, among others.