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LETTER OF THE DAY - It pays to go green

Published:Saturday | November 10, 2012 | 12:00 AM


A little under a year ago, my electricity bill was anywhere between $15,000 and $18,000 per month. It was never without some amount of reticence, and perhaps even anger, that I paid the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) each month.

Inspiration from a colleague and a change of address led me down the path of energy efficiency and green energy.

Before making the leap, I will confess that I shopped around quite a bit. I eventually bit the bullet and made an investment in both energy-efficient appliances, as well as a solar water heater. My electricity bill currently runs about $9,000 per month, give or take a little depending usually on the weather. The summer months are usually associated with increased energy consumption in my household.

I was due for new appliances anyway and did not own a water heater, so the real cost to contemplate in assessing the payback of my investment in energy-efficient appliances and my solar water heater are:

(1) the marginal financing costs (using commercial bank loan rates) of purchasing energy-efficient appliances versus non-energy-efficient appliances, which is approximately $4,000 per month for five years; and

(2) the marginal cost of financing the solar water heater loan which is approximately $1,500 per month for five years.

It all adds up

In my case, energy-efficient appliances cost about $200,000 more than non-energy-efficient ones and a National Housing Trust solar water heater loan at just three per cent, significantly reduced the marginal costs of the water heater loan, as an electric water heater (though about 50 per cent cheaper than solar heaters) would have to be financed at commercial bank loan rates.

The total marginal cost of my investment is, therefore, about $7,000 monthly, which is completely paid for by the savings on my electricity bill. My payback period is, therefore, zero years.

I doubt any rational thinking Jamaican would understand this dynamic and decide against it. I look forward to 2015 when all my loans are paid and I can enjoy free hot water for years to come (as the heater can last up to 25 years). At that point, I am almost 90 per cent certain I will be investing in photovoltaic cells and go even further green.

There is also the added benefit of knowing I am contributing to an energy-independent Jamaica, by making full use of one of our most important but, often, downplayed natural resources - the sun.


St Andrew